The draft solicitation for the Joint Multi-Role advanced-rotorcraft technology demonstration (JMR TD) has been released by US Army's Aviation Applied Research Directorate, making it clear the service's goal is to achieve performance, reliability and affordability well beyond what today's helicopters provide.
Concept: Bell Helicopter
Phase 1 of the JMR TD is to demonstrate air-vehicle technology for the planned Future Vertical Lift (FVL) medium-class utility rotorcraft that is intended to replace the UH-60M Black Hawk beginning in 2030. Phase 2, to demonstrate mission-system technology, will follow later and be competed separately.
The draft broad-area announcement (BAA) says the Army plans to spend $200 million on two air-vehicle demonstrators, with first flights in the fourth quarter on FY2017. The service is looking for industry to at least match the government funding, in cash or in kind, to demonstrate its commitment to the FVL program.
The draft BAA does not include the "model performance specification" for the FVL Medium -- that is still under development -- but it indicates industry should focus on configurations and technologies not in the current DoD rotorcraft inventory.
The BAA identifies key challenges to be addressed as: speeds greater than 170kt, rotor advance ratios greater than 0.4 in edgewise flight, conversion between low-speed and high-speed flight, unloaded rotor dynamics, efficient power distribution for auxiliary thrust devices -- all things that hint where the Army's thinking is headed, for the demo at least.
The Army plans to award multiple contracts for preliminary design of demonstrator aircraft then, following preliminary design reviews in the third quarter of FY14, downselect to a smaller number based on the funding available for detail design and construction of demonstrators.
That's when it will get interesting, because the availability of Sikorsky's two private-venture S-97 Raider prototypes and Eurocopter's X3 could play into how many JMR flight demonstrators the Army is able to fund. The detail design review is scheduled for the second quarter of FY15.
Concept: AVX Aircraft
The Army wants industry teams to do a "deep-dive analysis" of their objective FVL Medium designs to identify those features primarily responsible for performance and decide which need to be flown to reduce risk and which can be demonstrated on the ground to reduce cost.
The air-vehicle demonstrator must have the same fundamental features as the objective aircraft. It will almost certainly be smaller, but must be big enough that established scaling rules apply (which is not that easy when it comes to rotorcraft). The key metrics to be demonstrated include empty-weight fraction, cruise lift/drag and hover efficiency -- all of which must be better than today's rotorcraft.