U.S. Army: FLRAA Selection Now Expected In Matter Of Months

Defiant X (left) and V-280 Valor

Credit: Sikorsky/Boeing (left) and Bell.

The U.S. Army’s much-anticipated decision on who will build its next-generation helicopter is likely to slip even more, with the service’s top officer saying it will now come in a matter of months.

The downselect for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA)—between the Bell V-280 Valor and the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X—was originally expected this summer. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said Oct. 11 at the Association of the United States Army conference that his service will now downselect FLRAA “within the next few months.”

This would push the selection beyond November’s midterm elections. That would be a further slip from the Army’s last official update, when Doug Bush, the assistant secretary for acquisition, said in July that the downselect was “event-based” and could move into fiscal 2023. 

“The source-selection activity is doing all the right things to make sure there is a process that is fair and accurate,” Bush said at the time. “So the exact timeline, I don’t have a date actually, an exact date. The goal would still be end of fourth quarter ’22 and perhaps early first quarter ’23.”

Several Army leaders in the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and the Army Aviation Branch declined to comment on the FLRAA schedule, with a selection coming soon.

FLRAA is the successor to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, and is one of two programs in the Army’s Future Vertical Lift effort. The second, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, will follow.

The Army plans for one of the contractor teams to deliver six FLRAA prototypes in 2025 and the first unit equipped in 2030. The massive contract will shape America’s helicopter defense industrial base, and Bush said that while the service is “broadly” considering the health of industry in its decision, selecting the right aircraft is the most important factor.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.