By the end of this month the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) is expected to finish letting three to five contracts valued at $3 to $4 million aimed at kick-starting the next generation of military helicopter, the Joint Multi-Role(JMR), that would be used by all branches of the armed forces.
Helicopter pioneer Frank Piasecki, who died two weeks ago at age 88, leaves behind a lasting legacy in the rotorcraft world. Piasecki is well known for developing the Army’s CH-47 Chinook and the Navy’s CH-46 Sea Knight twin-rotor helicopters, which are both now built by Boeing’s rotorcraft division in eastern Pennsylvania.
Fly-by-wire flight controls are on the verge of making their debut in civil helicopters, decades after their introduction on fighters, airliners and, more recently, business jets. Eurocopter is investigating all-electric system architectures, including flight controls, hoping to have them in service in five to 10 years. In the U.S., Sikorsky has just flown a fly-by-wire H-92.
Retrofit technology that could turn the Pentagon’s fleet of Black Hawks and other helicopters into 200-knot, high-altitude speedsters, and later be applied to the civil market, is one step closer to reality.