Boeing and Sikorsky Pick X2 for JMR Demo

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This is no surprise, coming after the shock of Boeing and Sikorsky teaming in perpetuity to pursue the US Army's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, but they have picked Sikorsky's X2 configuration for their Joint Multi Role (JMR) technology-demonstrator proposal.

Concept: Sikorsky/Boeing

The coaxial-rotor, pusher-propeller X2 configuration was picked to meet the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate's (AATD) requirement for a cruise speed of up to 230kt - at least 50% faster than a conventional helicopter. Sikorsky's company-funded X2 Technology demonstrator exceeded 260kt is September 2010 and two industry-funded S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter prototypes now being built are designed to cruise at 235kt clean and 220kt with weapons. The first Raider will fly in 2014.

Boeing and Sikorsky say the X2 configuration was also chosen for its coaxial-rotor hover efficiency. Before teaming in January, the two companies independently studied advanced conventional and compound helicopters and tiltrotors. After teaming, they jointly conducted another "analysis of alternatives" using their separate studies as the baseline. This resulted in selection of the X2 configuration.

AATD plans to award cost-sharing contracts for two competitive air-vehicle demonstrators to fly in 2017. JMR is a precursor to the planned FLV Medium utility program to field a replacement for the Army's UH-60 Black Hawks beginning in 2035. An X2-configuration FVL Medium would cruise at 230kt, a 100kt improvement over the UH-60M, have higher hover efficiency, 60% longer combat radius and 50% better hot-and-high performance, says the team.

Concept: Bell Helicopter

Other bidders for the JMR tech demo are expected to be Bell Helicopter with a tiltrotor, EADS North America (ie Eurocopter) with a X3-style compound helicopter and AVX Aircraft with a coaxial-rotor, ducted-fan design. But a note of caution - just because the JMR demonstrators are to be high-speed rotorcraft doesn't mean the FVL Medium will be. It's just a demonstration, and the Army could still decide to stay with a conventional helicopter.

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