U.S. Army Taps Bell, Sikorsky-Boeing For JMR Next Phase

 - August 13, 2014, 8:46 AM
The Sikorsky-Boeing proposal is a compound helicopter design called the SB-1 Defiant. (Image: Sikorsky Aircraft)

Bell Helicopter and the team of Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing will build rotorcraft demonstrators for the U.S. Army’s joint multi-role technology demonstration (JMR TD), which calls for flights to begin in 2017. Two other companies the Army awarded technology investment agreements in October—AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft—did not make the cut to build flying demonstrators.

Sikorsky issued a press release on August 12 announcing that the Army Aviation Technology Directorate has selected its compound helicopter design to advance to the flight-test phase. Bell issued a statement saying it is pleased the Army chose its V-280 Valor to continue in the program. Earlier this month, the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said it will assemble a panel to explain the next phase. The center said that it has made no further announcement regarding the JMR TD program, but that contractors are allowed to make their own statements.

Sikorsky and Boeing will advance the SB-1 Defiant, a medium-lift helicopter “configured to Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.” The X2, a compound helicopter demonstrator, first flew in August 2008 and in September 2010 set an unofficial speed record for a helicopter at the time, achieving a maximum cruise speed of 253 knots. The Defiant will have contra-rotating rigid main rotor blades, a pusher propeller for high-speed acceleration and deceleration, and a fly-by-wire flight control system.

“Our team brings leadership and new ways of thinking to aircraft development,” said Shelley Lavender, Boeing Military Aircraft president. “As the original equipment manufacturers for both the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, we bring tremendous technological breadth and depth to the customer. I believe our technical capabilities and experience in development and flight-testing of complex rotorcraft systems were a key factor in the customer’s decision.”

Bell’s proposal is the V-280 Valor tiltrotor, which the company unveiled at the 2013 Army Aviation Association of America annual conference. "We remain focused on providing exceptional capabilities and flexibility in an advanced aircraft with reduced weight, complexity and cost," said program director Keith Flail.

The JMR effort is part of the U.S. Department of Defense Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program to develop a series of advanced rotorcraft to replace the Army’s current helicopter fleet by 2030.