Sikorsky, Bell Win U.S. Army FLRAA Awards
The U.S. Army has awarded Sikorsky $97 million and Bell $84 million for Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competitive demonstration and risk reduction (CD&RR), the service’s project manager said.
The difference in the amount awarded under the project agreements is because although the scope of each proposal was similar, the companies have different technical and costing approaches and phasing of work, Col. David Phillips, FLRAA project manager, told reporters March 17.
The Army issued the project agreements under the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium Other Transaction Authority. The companies will deliver initial conceptual designs, requirements feasibility and trade studies over two years. This risk reduction work will feed into final requirements before kicking off a program of record in 2022.
Two advanced rotorcraft were constructed for the Army’s Joint Multirole (JMR) technology demonstrator, the precursor to FLRAA. Bell manufactured the V-280 Valor that reached 300 kt., while Sikorsky/Boeing built the SB-1 Defiant that was designed to reach at least 250 kt.
During development the Valor logged more flight time than the Defiant. But the Army was comfortable with the amount of data the Defiant team submitted.
“With the iron bird approach that Boeing, Sikorsky went forward with, even though there was no flight time associated with that … a tremendous amount of data came out of that,” Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, Future Vertical Lift cross functional team director, told reporters during the same briefing. “The flight envelope continues to expand for Sikorsky/Boeing. They’re flying a bit more aggressively now than the V-280, and as the JMR finishes up toward the end of this fiscal year, maybe August, we’re going to see very comparable data on both sides.”
The Army does not always value every single hour of flight time. It depends on what was executed during each flight. This is also how the service feels about modeling and simulation. It is more about the test program, Patrick Mason, program executive officer for aviation, said during the same briefing.
A Pentagon independent review of FLRAA’s technology readiness level (TRL) decided most areas were a TRL 6 or 7, while some were rated a 5, Rugen previously said. This resulted in the Army’s decision to conduct the two-year CD&RR phase to raise TRLs to between 7 and 9 before entering a program of record.
“We see this as a good competition between two vendors that are moving forward and executing what we need them to do,” Mason said.
Rugen echoed those comments. “The proof is in the pudding,” he said, as the Army accelerated FLRAA by four years in the fiscal 2021 budget request.
The service intends to make FLRAA a program of record in fiscal 2022. At that point, other vendors could enter the competition and bid on follow-on efforts.
FLRAA is intended to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. The intent is to have the first unit equipped in fiscal 2030. The Army requested $134.4 million in fiscal 2021 and $2.44 billion over fiscal 2021-25 for the effort.