Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft signed a teaming agreement to submit a joint proposal for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration (TD), phase one. The effort aims to develop the Army’s next-generation medium helicopter. The two companies said they are prepared to “build and fly one or more” medium-sized demonstrator aircraft in 2017, the program’s first-flight milestone.
The JMR effort is part of the U.S. Department of Defense Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program to develop a series of helicopters that would replace the Army’s current aging fleet by 2030. In a draft broad agency announcement issued last August, the Army said that JMR TD phase 1 will address the technical risk of developing an FVL medium-class, vertical-takeoff and -landing air vehicle that “greatly surpasses” the performance, reliability and affordability of current helicopters. A second phase will address mission systems. The service expects that $200 million will be available for two phase-one demonstration efforts.
The Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate at Fort Eustis, Va., awarded contracts in 2011 to four companies–Boeing, Sikorsky, a Bell-Boeing team and AVX Aircraft–to conduct JMR configuration and trades analysis studies. Contacted by AIN, Bell Helicopter and AVX Aircraft said they will also submit proposals for JMR TD phase 1 by the March 6 deadline.
Boeing and Sikorsky last collaborated on the ill-fated RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, which was cancelled in 2004. Last January, Sikorsky announced it will lead an industry-funded effort to build two prototype S-97 Raiders, a helicopter design with coaxial main rotors and a pusher propeller. The companies declined to provide details of their JMR proposal “due to the highly sensitive JMR competition environment,” according to a Boeing spokesman. Boeing also declined to discuss “any other JMR-related activity,” such as a union with Bell, its partner on the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
In an emailed statement, Bell said it has made a “strategic decision to lead the development of next-generation tiltrotor technology” for the Army’s JMR effort. The company said it is “exploring various additional business relationships with a number of prospective partners and suppliers.”
Benbrook, Texas-based AVX has developed and patented a helicopter configuration featuring coaxial main rotors and dual ducted fans in place of a tail rotor. The company said it remains confident that its technology offers a JMR solution “that will meet all technical and cost goals.”