The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a workhorse for the U.S. armed forces, but the Pentagon has been looking for its replacement for more than a decade.
The Army’s Future Vertical Lift program is a potentially $100 billion effort aimed at replacing the service’s entire helicopter fleet, including the Black Hawk, the AH-64 Apache, the CH-46 Chinook and the OH-58 Kiowa.
As part of that program, the Army is proceeding with its Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator project. Bell Helicopter and a joint team from Sikorsky-Boeing will build prototypes from plans that were approved in 2013, according to Defense One.
Bell is building the V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter and rotate its propellers to fly like a plane, much like the V-22 Osprey used by the Marine Corps and Air Force.
Boeing-Sikorsky is building the SB-1 helicopter, which features two rotors stacked one atop the other.
Prototypes for both platforms could fly as soon as next year, and the winner of the competition could have a production line of combat-ready aircraft ready to go by the mid-2020s.
However, the Army doesn’t plan to buy new rotorcraft until after 2030, even though existing helicopters like the Black Hawk are breaking down more rapidly after a decade of heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the Army may need to move faster on replacing the Black Hawk, money is tight. The Army’s $125 billion budget request for fiscal year 2017 is $1.4 billion less than its previous request. Service aircraft accounts in particular took a big hit, dropping from $5.9 billion to $3.6 billion.
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