As it prepares to launch a technology demonstration for the next generation of rotorcraft, the U.S. Army’s aviation research arm has a series of smaller programs getting under way that will feed technology into the Joint Multi Role (JMR) effort.
From avionics to engines, and airframes to weapons, the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Fort Eustis, Va., has had an array of science and technology (S&T) programs ongoing since 2004 to lay the foundations for the Army’s next rotorcraft.
“A lot of things are coming together at the right time,” says Ned Chase, chief of AATD’s platform technology division and lead for the JMR Technology Demonstration (TD).
Phase 1 of the TD, to build competitive air-vehicle flight demonstrators, is scheduled to begin in fiscal 2013, followed in fiscal 2015 by Phase 2, for the JMR mission system.
The technology demonstration is planned to end in fiscal 2020 and lead into engineering and manufacturing development of the first of a series of future vertical-lift aircraft, expected to be a medium-sized utility rotorcraft to replace the Army’sBlack Hawk beginning around 2030.
To ready technologies for the demonstration effort, and mature more advanced approaches for the follow-on development program, AATD has several S&T projects now at critical stages.
In January, the directorate issued a solicitation for Phase 2 of the Reconfigurable Rotors project, with the goal of demonstrating in fiscal 2014 a full-scale, active, adaptive rotor system that improves performance 10% in hover and 8% in cruise and reduces vibration 90% and acoustic detection range 50%.
Bids already are in for Phase 2 of the Adaptive Vehicle Management System project, which aims to flight-demonstrate in fiscal 2015 the next generation of fly-by-wire flight control systems, enabling carefree maneuvering and task-tailored control laws. A single contractor will be selected within the next two weeks, Chase says.
Also in January, AATD issued a solicitation for the Combat Tempered Platform project, which plans to use lighter, stronger composite structures to enable durability and survivability improvements to be built into a rotorcraft without increasing its weight and reducing its performance.
“Instead of saving weight with composites, we will hold the weight of the aircraft fixed and use more efficient materials to beef up areas of the aircraft,” Chase says. “So for the same weight we can integrate technologies that make it significantly more survivable and durable.”
Potential benefits include reductions of 12.3% in aircraft loss rate and 13.8% in fatality rate, and a 3.4% improvement in operational availability with the same mission performance.
Adaptive flight controls and improvements in airframe and rotor durability and aircrew survivability from other AATD research projects will be rolled into the Combat Tempered Platform, with demonstration of a full-scale fuselage section planned for fiscal 2014-15.
Advanced engine and drive-system programs are under way, while other projects on the horizon include demonstrations of an open-system architecture, advanced cockpit concepts and decision-aiding software for the JMR mission system.
The Synergistic Unmanned-Manned Intelligent Teaming project, planned for fiscal 2014-19, is to flight-demonstrate technology enabling an unmanned aircraft to operate as an autonomous wingman, and decision-aiding capability enabling manned-unmanned teaming in the scout/attack mission.