The military expects big things from its next-generation helicopters
Priorities for the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift program include improvements in speed and range as well as new sensors and targeting technologies. The new generation of rotorcraft is expected to serve for decades once it enters service.
The Army is currently testing, evaluating and deliberating on two separate helicopter programs for the future. The first is the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), while the second is the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA). The FLRAA is expected to double the range and speed of the current UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Competitors include Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor design, and a Lockheed-Sikorsky-Boeing entry called DEFIANT X.
Both models are designed to meet military requirements for speed, range and lift. Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said he was excited about the prospects for the FLRAA program. In an interview with The National Interest, Hodges did not favor one entry over another, but was happy with the Army’s requirements and goals for the program.
“I’ve served four times with the 101st Airborne Division, I’ve been to Iraq twice, and nothing is more important to the way the United States military fights than having a rotary wing,” Hodges said. . “The ability to move firepower, conduct medical evacuations and provide logistics is a critical part of how we fight.”
A new aircraft is needed due to changes in the threat environment, which includes longer range weapons that fire with greater accuracy. Another challenge will be how to develop aircraft capable of operating while dispersed, while amassing large amounts of combat power when needed for operations.
“Of course, distances are increasing, charges are increasing and enemy air defenses are improving, so there are so many different challenges,” Hodges said. “The United States is working hard to develop a capability that can get a lot of troops on the ground quickly in a small place so we can massage combat power. They are working on developing a system that can survive and meet the demands. »
Both competitors in the FLRAA competition include unique capabilities to meet speed, range, agility and performance requirements. The military also expects the aircraft to operate in grueling conditions at temperatures above 95 degrees and at altitudes above 6,000 feet. At high altitude, it becomes more difficult for the aircraft to maintain lift and operate as needed.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.