The U.S. Army announced Oct. 2 that it has asked four aviation firms to design "transformational vertical-lift" aircraft that could someday help replace many existing military helicopters.
Under "technology investment agreements" that the Army's Aviation and Missile Research, Development & Engineering Center awarded to AVX Aircraft, Bell Helicopter Textron, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky Aircraft, the Army and the companies will all contribute funding to the effort, known formally as the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstration (TD) program. In nine months, the Army is expected to narrow the field to two companies and ask them to build demonstrator aircraft that could begin flying in 2017.
JMR is intended to develop improved technologies that could one day be fielded on successors to the Apache attack helicopter and the Black Hawk utility helicopter, among others.
“Improved speed, range, reliability and survivability are critical goals that we will target,” said Maj. Gen. William "Tim" Crosby, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation.
Bell is proposing the V-280, which uses “third-generation tilt-rotor technology,” while Sikorsky, which is teamed with Boeing, is offering the X2, which features counter-rotating rotors on the top of the aircraft and a “pusher propeller” on its tail. Karem is also expected to design a tilt-rotor aircraft, while the AVX concept has two rotors on top and small wings and ducted fans on the sides.
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