[author type="author"]Kris Osborn[/author]
The Pentagon and the Army are in the early stages of a far-reaching science and technology (S&T) effort to engineer, build, and deliver a next-generation helicopter with vastly improved avionics, electronics, range, speed, propulsion, survivability, operating density altitudes, and payload capacity. In a series of five articles, Access AL&T looks in detail at what this program is intended to accomplish and how industry is contributing.[image align="right" caption="The Joint Multi-Role science & technology effort is exploring the development of a new attack or utility helicopter. Here, SPC David Reed, an Apache Mechanic in the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade (ACB), 1st Cavalry Division (Cav. Div.), Multi-National Division – Baghdad, works on the engine compartment of the helicopter during a 500-hour phase maintenance inspection on the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Travis Zielinksi, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/army.mil-51219-2009-09-22-160948.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/army.mil-51219-2009-09-22-160948.jpg” height=”167″ width=”246″[/image]
The Joint Multi-Role (JMR) science and technology (S&T) effort, led by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), has awarded “concept trade and analysis” deals to four industry teams tasked with examining the attributes, designs, and technologies needed to build a new, more capable attack or utility helicopter.
“The real focus of JMR is to get at the three major tenets: improve the performance, improve the survivability, and significantly reduce the operating cost. The next-generation aircraft will have to be a whole lot less expensive to operate than the current fleet,” said Dave Weller, S&T Manager, Program Executive Office Aviation.
“Also, a big issue is increasing reliability and shortening the supply chain to get the logistical benefits of commonality of parts. When we did an adjunct capability-based assessment to identify gaps, we came up with some 55 gap areas. The number one gap was reliability.”
The Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, Fort Eustis, VA, which leads the execution of the tech demo effort on behalf of AMRDEC, awarded 18-month Technology Investment Agreements to Boeing Co., a Bell Helicopter-Boeing team, and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.; and a 15-month contract to AVX Aircraft Co.
The government and its industry partners will first conduct analytical studies and trade assessments to articulate what might be technically possible. These initial findings will help inform the specifications for the rotorcraft demonstrator vehicles to be built.
“Right now the plan is to go through the first phase to define what the state of the possible would be, followed by a down-select to build two demonstrators. The idea is to identify, develop, and demonstrate the best trade solution that covers the attribute matrix. The government is doing the same kind of analysis that industry is doing, so we plan to compare our results,” Weller explained.
Initial results from these efforts are due by the end of the year, he said.
NEXT: The JMR Vision, From the Outside In
Previous stories on JMR:
Pentagon, Army Developing Next-Generation Helicopter Fleet (9 January 2012)
For more information on the DASA for Research & Technology, visit https://www.alt.army.mil/portal/page/portal/oasaalt/SAAL-ZT.
- KRIS OSBORN is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Office of Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.