Lamz.Elevating Aviation: Insights from Military Engineers on Future-Proofing the Sector

Lamz.Elevating Aviation: Insights from Military Engineers on Future-Proofing the Sector

The U.S. Army’s scientific and technological community is playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of vertical lift aviation in the military, with the objective of empowering soldiers to accomplish missions that were once considered unattainable.

In close collaboration with NASA and the Navy, the Army is combining its technical expertise to achieve ambitious scientific and engineering objectives essential for the development of a new generation of joint aircraft. According to Ned Chase, the Deputy Program Director of Science and Technology (S&T) for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator/Future Vertical Lift (JMR TD), this initiative is addressing capability gaps that cannot be filled by merely updating the existing aircraft fleet.

Chase, who is affiliated with the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARMDEC) in Fort Eustis, Virginia, underscores the focus on demonstrating the feasibility of incorporating various cutting-edge technologies into a novel aircraft design. He states, “We aim to create a roadmap for developing radios, weapons, sensors, and survivability equipment by drawing from RDECOM in preparation for FVL. We take their products and integrate them onto the platform itself. FVL will reflect the cumulative investment of RDECOM.”

Charles Catterall, a lead systems engineer at AMRDEC, highlights the effort to engage various sister organizations within the Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) to collectively support this program. The initiative consists of two key components: the Air Vehicle Demonstration (AVD) and the Mission Systems Architecture Demonstration (MSAD). Industry partners like Sikorsky-Boeing and Bell Helicopter are responsible for designing, testing, and ultimately flying the demonstrator aircraft.

The ultimate objective of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program is to replace the military’s vertical lift aircraft fleet with a new family of aircraft. To accomplish this, the effort involves integrating technology concepts from across RDECOM and the Department of Defense into an efficient and enduring architecture.

Chase acknowledges the challenge of developing technologies that can function effectively in a more demanding aviation environment. He highlights the transition from flying aircraft at 130 knots to 250 knots and the resulting changes in the operational landscape for weapons, sensors, and radios.

The development of a joint aircraft for all services is expected to streamline technology development, training, maintenance, and logistics. The initiative categorizes aircraft into four distinct types—light, medium, heavy, and ultra—to cater to the diverse mission requirements of different services.

Collaboration with NASA and the Navy, each with its unique expertise, enhances the project’s comprehensiveness. The joint requirement necessitates a diverse team, as different services have varied missions and operating conditions.

The project’s timeline includes the first flight testing in the summer of 2017, with technologies integrated onto the platform at technology readiness level 6 between 2022 and 2024. While the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) often develops single-purpose aircraft, the focus of JMR TD is to build a fleet capable of achieving multiple strategic goals.

In conclusion, this article, originally published in the March/April 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, showcases the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Army to revolutionize military vertical lift aviation through cutting-edge technology integration and innovation.

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