Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky/Boeing have been selected to build high-speed rotorcraft technology demonstrators for the U.S. Army. Both aircraft are scheduled to fly in 2017.

Bell will build the 280-kt. V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky/Boeing the 230 kt.-plus SB.1 Defiant rigid coaxial-rotor compound helicopter under the $217 million first phase of the Joint Multi Role technology demonstration (JMR TD).

JMR TD is the precursor to the Army’s planned Future Vertical Lift Medium (FVL-M) program to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter from the mid-2030s onward. Later an attack derivative could replace the Boeing AH-64 Apache and a marinized version of the Navy’s MH-60 Seahawk.

The two other competitors for JMR TD Phase 1, small companies AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft, are expected to receive Army contracts for some level of continued technology development. AVX was proposing a 230-kt. coaxial-rotor compound and Karem a variable-speed tiltrotor.

Cost-sharing is a major component of JMR and executives at both Bell and Boeing have said industry is investing many times more than the government in the technology demonstration because of the importance of the follow-on FVL-M program.

How much of the JMR TD budget the Army has left to spend with AVX and Karem will depend on the cost-sharing agreed to by Sikorsky/Boeing and Bell.

"We are currently still in negotiations with the U.S. Army and hope to continue some level of work, but do not know what that will be or how much funding will be involved," says AVX. "We are in discussions with the Army," Karem says.

The Defiant and Valor will demonstrate high-speed rotorcraft candidates for FVL-M, at or close to full scale, but there is no guarantee that the Army will ultimately opt for higher speed when it comes to replace the UH-60.

With rigid coaxial rotors, pusher propeller and advanced fly-by-wire controls, "Defiant will use Sikorsky’s proven X2 technology to overcome aircraft design challenges," says Mick Maurer, Sikorsky’s president. The demonstrator will be powered by a pair of Honeywell T55 turboshafts.

Bell’s demonstrator will be powered by a pair of General Electric T64 turboshafts, mounted fixed at the wingtips and driving tilting proprotors. The V-280 offers the capability "to fly twice the range at double the speed of any existing helicopter," says Program Director Keith Flail.

Bell’s focus is on reducing the weight, complexity and cost of the "third-generation" tiltrotor, compared to those of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. Bell’s team members include Lockheed Martin for the mission system, Spirit AeroSystems the composite fuselage, GKN V-tail and Moog fly-by-wire flight controls.