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Bell’s V-280 advanced tiltrotor and the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 coaxial compound helicopter are now the two official contenders for the U.S. Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA.
The Army announced the competitive demonstration and risk reduction (CD&RR) contracts March 16, after a protracted industry-led demonstration program that launched both aircraft and gathered reams of data on their flight characteristics.
The Army’s Aviation program office, working with Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, awarded the project agreements under the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium Other Transaction Authority (OTA), and the agreements were not announced through the Pentagon’s regular contract award process. Using OTAs allows the Army more flexibility than the Defense Department’s traditional contracting process, but also does not require the service to publish contract amounts.
These competitively awarded OTA agreements consist of risk reduction activities that combine government research with input from industry partners to inform the future development and procurement of the FLRAA weapons system, according to a copy of the public announcement obtained by Vertical.
Under the agreements, each company will produce initial conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies using model based systems engineering. These CD&RR agreements will extend over two years, informing the final Army requirements and the program of record planned for competition in 2022.
“These agreements are an important milestone for FLRAA,” said Patrick Mason, program executive officer for Army Aviation. “The CD&RR continues to transition technologies from the JMR-TD effort to the FLRAA weapons system design. We will be conducting analysis to refine the requirements, conceptual designs, and acquisition approach. Ultimately, this information and industry feedback are vital to understanding the performance, cost, affordability, schedule risks and trades needed to successfully execute the FLRAA program.”
FLRAA is the program of record that resulted from years of investment into the Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) program that sought to study what leap-ahead vertical lift capabilities industry could deliver on relatively short notice.
Both the SB>1 Defiant and V-280 Valor were financed partially by the U.S. government through the JMR-TD program and partially through each company’s internal research and development funding, to the tune of more than half a billion dollars each. Data gathered on those designs likely will form the basis of each company’s final FLRAA design. Funding for the new CD&RR phase is flipped, with government covering two thirds of the funding and industry pitching in one third. An ultimate winner will take home the FLRAA contract in 2022.
That public-private teamwork played a major role in the decision process, according to Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Cross-Functional Team.
“I’m very proud of the collaborative work done by this team of teams and excited about the award of the OTA agreements for the CD&RR efforts to continue burning down risk and setting conditions for the FLRAA program four year acceleration,” Rugen said. “We appreciate the support from Congress and Army senior leaders that postures FLRAA for a stable and executable program of record.”