U.S. Army Charts Path To New Rotorcraft




After decades waiting in the wings, the rotorcraft R&D community is mobilizing to develop what could become the U.S. Army’s first clean-sheet design since the 1970s.
The Joint Multi Role (JMR) concept evolved from an exhaustive analysis of U.S. vertical-lift needs, which included a painful assessment of the shortfalls of current rotorcraft and gaps in industry capabilities. The conclusion was that another round of upgrades for existing platforms would no longer meet the military’s requirements and that a technology demonstration program was needed to get industry up to speed to deliver a next-generation rotorcraft.
The JMR technology demonstration (TD) is intended to apply to all classes of Army rotorcraft from armed scout to heavy lift, but is focused on the medium utility class because replacing the Black Hawk fleet “offers the biggest bang for the buck,” says Ned Chase. He is JMR technology-demonstration team lead and chief of the platform technology division at the Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD). The Army wants to field a medium-utility JMR by 2030.
The JMR TD will be divided into two parts—Phase 1 for the air vehicle and Phase 2 for its mission system, which lags by two years in recognition that electronics advance faster than airframes, rotors, engines and drive systems. Both phases are to be completed by the end of fiscal 2019, when the Army plans to be in position to launch the engineering and manufacturing development program for a next-generation rotorcraft.
The JMR TD will be the culmination of a decade-long rotorcraft science and technology (S&T) road map that has been followed without it being clear, until now, exactly how and when it would be applied and whether to upgrading existing helicopters or developing all-new rotorcraft.
“In the 2004 timeframe, we looked at what we needed to address and where to invest,” says Chase. “We looked at the Army’s aviation gap analysis and asked the Defense Department, NASA and the FAA to participate in formulating an investment portfolio that would stand the test of time,” he says. “Our investment strategy has been constant over time. There have been budget changes, but the portfolio has stayed relatively stable.” Chase believes that stability has given industry confidence about where to spend its own R&D money. “Industry has matched almost every dollar we have spent,” he says.
Confidence will be critical, because AATD needs significant cost-sharing from industry to achieve its goal of flying two competing demonstrators. The Army has committed funds for a single air vehicle, with $188 million budgeted in fiscal 2012-16, but AATD hopes funding from other services and cost-sharing by industry will enable it to afford two competing aircraft. “I think we can find a way to do two,” Chase says.
Of the money budgeted, $75 million is so-called BA4 dollars, usually provided by programs to fund prototypes. By establishing this funding line, the Army hopes to bridge the “valley of death” that often prevents technology transitioning from S&T to programs, Chase says.
Whether the funding is sufficient is another issue. “It’s not clear how much technology will be demonstrated,” says Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the American Helicopter Society International. “It’s easy to do a demo with a certain amount of money. It’s easy to demonstrate advanced technology with sufficient money. You can’t demonstrate a lot of next-generation technology with an inadequate amount of funds.”
While the U.S. Navy has expressed interest in joining the JMR TD, it has not put money in yet. As for whether the demonstration plan and Army commitment to JMR are strong enough to attract the industry investment for which AATD is hoping, Hirschberg says: “If it’s 50% cost-share, I think the answer is no.”

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Friday, March 30, 2012

U.S. Army Charts Path To New Rotorcraft



After decades waiting in the wings, the rotorcraft R&D community is mobilizing to develop what could become the U.S. Army’s first clean-sheet design since the 1970s.
The Joint Multi Role (JMR) concept evolved from an exhaustive analysis of U.S. vertical-lift needs, which included a painful assessment of the shortfalls of current rotorcraft and gaps in industry capabilities. The conclusion was that another round of upgrades for existing platforms would no longer meet the military’s requirements and that a technology demonstration program was needed to get industry up to speed to deliver a next-generation rotorcraft.
The JMR technology demonstration (TD) is intended to apply to all classes of Army rotorcraft from armed scout to heavy lift, but is focused on the medium utility class because replacing the Black Hawk fleet “offers the biggest bang for the buck,” says Ned Chase. He is JMR technology-demonstration team lead and chief of the platform technology division at the Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD). The Army wants to field a medium-utility JMR by 2030.
The JMR TD will be divided into two parts—Phase 1 for the air vehicle and Phase 2 for its mission system, which lags by two years in recognition that electronics advance faster than airframes, rotors, engines and drive systems. Both phases are to be completed by the end of fiscal 2019, when the Army plans to be in position to launch the engineering and manufacturing development program for a next-generation rotorcraft.
The JMR TD will be the culmination of a decade-long rotorcraft science and technology (S&T) road map that has been followed without it being clear, until now, exactly how and when it would be applied and whether to upgrading existing helicopters or developing all-new rotorcraft.
“In the 2004 timeframe, we looked at what we needed to address and where to invest,” says Chase. “We looked at the Army’s aviation gap analysis and asked the Defense Department, NASA and the FAA to participate in formulating an investment portfolio that would stand the test of time,” he says. “Our investment strategy has been constant over time. There have been budget changes, but the portfolio has stayed relatively stable.” Chase believes that stability has given industry confidence about where to spend its own R&D money. “Industry has matched almost every dollar we have spent,” he says.
Confidence will be critical, because AATD needs significant cost-sharing from industry to achieve its goal of flying two competing demonstrators. The Army has committed funds for a single air vehicle, with $188 million budgeted in fiscal 2012-16, but AATD hopes funding from other services and cost-sharing by industry will enable it to afford two competing aircraft. “I think we can find a way to do two,” Chase says.
Of the money budgeted, $75 million is so-called BA4 dollars, usually provided by programs to fund prototypes. By establishing this funding line, the Army hopes to bridge the “valley of death” that often prevents technology transitioning from S&T to programs, Chase says.
Whether the funding is sufficient is another issue. “It’s not clear how much technology will be demonstrated,” says Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the American Helicopter Society International. “It’s easy to do a demo with a certain amount of money. It’s easy to demonstrate advanced technology with sufficient money. You can’t demonstrate a lot of next-generation technology with an inadequate amount of funds.”
While the U.S. Navy has expressed interest in joining the JMR TD, it has not put money in yet. As for whether the demonstration plan and Army commitment to JMR are strong enough to attract the industry investment for which AATD is hoping, Hirschberg says: “If it’s 50% cost-share, I think the answer is no.”

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