Bell’s experience with the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator shows the effectiveness of government-industry collaboration to deliver advanced technologies to the warfighter—and points out ways that such partnerships could be even stronger.
by Mitch Snyder
“The Army of 2028 will be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere, in a joint, multidomain, high-intensity conflict, while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare.”
U.S. Army Vision
An ever-changing landscape and rapidly evolving technologies make it vitally important for industry and government to work together to deliver game-changing capabilities to our military quickly and efficiently.
Conceptually it’s simple: Government and industry need to have a shared vision, collaborate and better use acquisition tools.
Although this appears to be challenging, Bell has a strong public-private partnership that proves it is possible.
Imagine progressing from a clean-sheet design for an affordable and reliable aircraft with twice the speed of legacy aircraft and three times the range to flying this high-performance aircraft in six years. Our experience working on the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) is an example of how an effective partnership between industry and the government can bring technologies into reach faster. Bell, its partners on Team Valor and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center have worked side by side to design and develop the V-280 Valor. Dec. 18, 2018, marked one year of sustained flight and testing for the V-280, proving it can deliver overmatch potential at a sustainable cost.
As the conflicts our military encounters are increasingly complex and dynamic, we need to capitalize on the lessons learned from rapid-advancement programs like the JMR-TD to modernize our forces. The modernization process should leverage commercial innovations, warfighter feedback, prototyping and cutting-edge science.
FROM PROGRAM TO ACTUAL CAPABILITIES
There is clear willingness on all sides to move out aggressively to make sure our military retains the means to deter or defeat any adversary. Army leadership is fostering a renewed culture of innovation and smart risk-taking with the establishment of the U.S. Army Futures Command and cross-functional teams aligned with the Army’s modernization priorities. The strategy has one focus: to make troops and units more lethal to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars.
Our industry is constantly looking at new ways to turn technology and engineering prowess into solutions for our national security challenges. We have the innovative thinkers, technical know-how and a highly trained workforce ready to compete for funding, once we know the requirements.
The participants in the JMR-TD program work in an environment of cooperation, shared vision and shared risk. There is also a commitment by industry to use its own funds to ensure success.
We were able to learn from more than 400,000 operational flight hours on our fleet of V-22 Ospreys, allowing us to rapidly develop and mature technology for the V-280. The results are an aircraft with suitability characteristics (reliability, maintainability, logistics supportability) that are as outstanding as its effectiveness and survivability characteristics (range, speed, payload, invulnerability, crashworthiness). The V-280 Valor is affordable to acquire and maintain while still delivering exceptional capabilities, such as twice the speed and range of a legacy rotorcraft. It also uses open systems architecture—a statutory requirement for new DOD programs.
The challenge on both sides is how to make the acquisition process more of an enabler. It should be more open and collaborative. Instead, it is still a sequence of verification steps that isn’t agile enough to keep up with the speed at which industry can move, nor with how fast our military needs the equipment. Agile acquisition entails clear and concise high-level requirements, (partially) funded prototyping and a transition plan to turn experimentation into programs.
Bell’s V-280 in the JMR-TD effort accomplished the first steps by taking an identified gap in warfighter capability, investing industry and government funds at a 5-1 ratio to rapidly develop and mature technology, and creating a flying aircraft that delivers twice the range and speed of legacy rotorcraft. The Army should take credit for technology maturation achieved under this effort by determining a similarly innovative acquisition path to deliver a revolutionary capability for warfighters at a sustainable cost and years ahead of current schedule projections.
The current Army leadership is battle-tested. It knows how to guarantee our nation’s security. Our military is looking for innovative ideas and capabilities that match its unique circumstances, and it is our responsibility as an industry to equip the warfighter today with the tools of tomorrow.
The Army has a thoughtful path to modernize. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Futures Command to streamline processes, unleashing the power and creativity of the Army and industry together.
To turn this potential into programs of record, the government must act quickly with industry to recognize the significant advances in technology, clearly define the final operational requirements, define an acquisition path that avoids unnecessary duplication and apply funding.
Smart investments are those that deliver game-changing capability with room for future improvements, without breaking the budget.
We fully support the Army as it refines and executes the plan to meet security challenges with smart, bold acquisition and modernization reforms. Our partnership of industry and government is working well. If properly executed, this partnership will deliver capability to warfighters at a sustainable cost, years ahead of current schedule projections.
MITCH SNYDER is president and chief executive officer of Bell. Before being named CEO in October 2015, he was executive vice president of military business, responsible for providing strategic direction, overall management and performance for all of Bell’s government programs. He spearheaded several of the company’s most significant initiatives, including the V-22 program, and led the manufacturing centers. Before joining Bell, he held several senior leadership positions at Lockheed Martin Corp. in engineering, business development, manufacturing and program management. He worked with customers throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Kansas State University, where he is an alumni fellow and Hall of Fame inductee selected for his distinguished service throughout his career in industry.
This article is published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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