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Contract negotiations between the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and
AVX Helicopter, Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky/Boeing team–the potential Phase
I vendors for the joining multi-role technology demonstrator [JMR-TD] are
nearing completion. Announcement of the awards for a new U.S. Army medium
helicopter are planned although this schedule is challenged by furlough effects.
JMR is the precursor of the future vertical lift program, which has the goal of
developing a series of helicopters with “leap-ahead technology” in four sizes:
light scout to replace the Bell OH-58 Kiowa; medium utility and attack to
replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache; heavy cargo to
replace the Boeing CH-47 Chinook; and ultra large with performance similar to
that of the C-130J Super Hercules. The initial focus is on the medium
configuration, which represents the Army’s greatest need–some 4,000 aircraft.
The differences in the approaches of the three potential JMR-TD participants are
significant w/ each having a slightly different schedule. The program plan is to
conduct first flights in late Fiscal Year 2017. Sikorsky Aircraft is well
into the design of its self-funded S-97 Raider, which is based on the company’s
coaxial-rotor X2 technology demonstrator, retired in Jully 2011. Sikorsky, which
has teamed with Boeing Helicopter on JMR, has already begun development of the
S-97 and expects to fly two prototypes by the end of next year. However,
the Raider is meant to be a light tactical helicopter, not the medium transport/attack helicopter defined by JMR Phase 1, so the S-97/X2 would need to be scaled up to meet the requirements
of the program.