Army Details Next-Gen Helicopter Timeline

U.S. Army - Graphic Illustration of potential JMR configuration

U.S. Army officials plan to award up to four design contracts by the end of fiscal year 2013 for vendors to build the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) demonstrator aircraft, a next generation helicopter fleet, Army leaders said Thursday.

Current plans call for two JMR technology demonstrator aircraft to be designed and built for a first flight by sometime in 2017, said Todd Turner, director for the Army’s Research and Technology Air Portfolio.

“This is an S&T [Science and Technology] effort for the development of a new, medium-class platform. The goals are to design, fabricate and demonstrate an advanced vertical lift vehicle with a combat radius of 424 kilometers, that’s an 848 kilometer range, un-refueled, at speeds of up to 230 knots,” Turner said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 14th Annual Science & Engineering Technology Conference/Defense Tech Exposition, National Harbor, Md.

A key goal for the program is to be affordable, and develop an aircraft that can reach much greater speeds and extend mission possibilities without compromising an ability to hover, Turner said.

Army officials said the S&T effort is designed to lower risk, reduce costs and inform requirements for what will be a Future Vertical Lift formal program of record designed to deliver new aircraft by 2030.

“We’re currently completing what we call configuration trades and analysis portions of this effort which will finish this year. The trades we considered were cost, weight and power requirements, mission equipment packages and life-cycle costs.  All configurations were considered,” Turner said.

The configurations currently being examined include a tilt-rotor possibility, like today’s Marine Corps and Air Force V-22 Osprey as well as various compound configurations such as air vehicles with a rear-thrusting mechanism and co-axial rotorblades, Army officials explained.

The service is evaluating responses to an Army solicitation to industry to build designs. Service officials plan to down select to two design teams by the fourth quarter of fiscal year ’14, Turner said.

The JMR effort also plans to include next-generation mission equipment and avionics along with integrated sensors and weapons systems.

Turner said Army S&T is working on advanced rotor designs, autonomy algorithms and concept analyses wherein they assess air-vehicle design methods.

“We currently have a good handle on how to build systems when we have a database. What we are trying to do is move towards where we can design new systems at a more rapid pace. Get that design closer to what the air vehicle will look like, he said.

The FVL aircraft is slated to be powered by an Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), a more powerful, 3,000-horsepower, more fuel-efficient engine also being informed by an ongoing S&T Program, Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine effort.

“It’s transitioning out of S&T this year to the ITEP program. It’s showing benefits of 25-percent reduced burn rate and a 35-percent reduction in production and maintenance costs,” Turner said.

Army S&T is also in the early phases of developing the Future Affordable Turbine Engine, a 7,000-horsepower heavy class engine for larger rotary platforms such as the CH-47 Chinook.

“We’re developing material and component technologies for the compressor and turbine sub-systems,” he added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.

    Hmm. Well. Yet another “Next Generation” project. Would love to see another tilt-rotor like the Osprey. This picture, though, already makes me doubt the project. Tiny body, pusher props, an oversized main rotor, and wings aren’t filling me with confidence.

  • dubweiser101

    If the F-35 project is any indication of how the modern US defense industry works then we can expect this bird at about 300% over budget, and sometime in 2040 as opposed to 2030 and on budget.

    If I’m wrong, I will eat my left testicle raw.


      Hm. Wouldn’t recommend that. Also, there is a fine line between the heli and the fighter. So really, this could go either way.

    • Musson

      They just announced the project and already it has been allocated $3.2 billion in unanticipated overhead.


  • Belesari

    Oh looks like a real low maintenance bird with those 4 props…..

    How do we make this more awesome…..

    Put more blades on it.


      Hmm. I don’t know about low costs to maintain. At least, not with your PROPosed more blades idea.

      • Belesari

        LOL was a joke /sarcasm.

    • Gunslinger6
    • Musson

      If they add anymore blades they will have to subcontract it out to Kitchmaid.

    • gunslinger6

      It needs more cow bell!

  • STemplar

    This basically matches all the prototypes and models out there. So falls to the company that provides the best value l would think.

  • mzungu

    Those terrorist must be running pretty fast on their feet in those mountains to warrant a fast heli, but hey, sign me up. I will just have to work harder, so Uncle Sam can put more of my tax dollar to work. Sam, you can sign my name on those government bonds as often as they like.

  • Ben

    I’m cautiously optimistic.

    I’d like to see that proposed larger, quad-rotor version of the Osprey. Same hauling capacity as a C-130 but with VTOL capability :)

  • Taylor

    I think Sikorsky recently came up with the pusher prop helicopter idea. It looks like a food processor with all the blades.

  • XYZ

    Let’s put ALL OF THE rotors on it!

  • Cthel

    The AH-56 Lives!

  • joe

    They ought to just dust off the old X-18 Tiltrotor out of monthballs, Redesign it using new lighter matterials, computer controlled wing tilting technology borrowing from V-22. Enlarge the body to carry 35 troops or a cargo lift greater than what the CH-47 or 53E are currently doing, but keep the footprint small enough to still be able to work off of Ships and small platforms.

  • Dfens

    This is what we need, another “joint” program that has lots of political clout. No doubt it will feature all new everything from the rotor to the landing gear that way they can provide a dose of money to as many federal congressional districts as possible. As usual, they will pay the defense contractors involved $1.10 for every dollar they spend on development, and then won’t be able to figure out why the program drags on for so long and why the costs go through the roof, as if there were some mystery to it.

  • guest

    Would it REALLY have an exposed tail rotor for Blackhawk Down type of weakness?

    • blight_

      That pretty much limits you to one main rotor with intermeshing blades (see K-MAX), or a paired coaxial contra-rotating setup (many Kamov helicopters), or a tandem contra-rotating rotor setup (Chinook, Sea Knight). MD’s NOTAR still has vents in the tail, and those could be compromised as well. Even pusher designs would be vulnerable. A Fenestron (rotor-in-tail, see HH-65 Dolphin) is vulnerable for the same reasons as a normal tail rotor. Tipjet hasn’t been tried for a while.

      If you wanted to be exceedingly paranoid, an Osprey would probably be vulnerable to losing either engine to an RPG, as would a Chinook, and a coaxial contrarotating setup is one point of failure from dropping like a rock without even a main rotor, though theoretically harder to hit.

    • Dfens

      The short answer is “no”. They can duct the rotor and swivel it so they don’t have one rotor pointing aft and another countering rotor forces. The F-35 swivels it’s hot engine exhaust for attitude control. It’s a lot easier to swivel cold air with a similar duct. That crappy graphic they included with this story doesn’t give anyone a warm fuzzy feeling about this program. They should have used an odd number of blades to counter the noise problems the main rotor is going to have when it interacts with that wing. The wing looks way too close to the rotor anyway. And could that tail boom be a little longer?

      • blight_

        I think Guest is fixated on tail rotors, when the real vulnerability is putting a rocket into the tail boom. Ducted rotors on the rear boom would still have gone down to RPG fire in ’93. It’s a limitation of using rotors to stay afloat. Lose the ability to counter rotation of the main rotor and you lose control of the aircraft.


          Pretty much yes. But how is a ducted tail rotor any worse than on open one in an RPG attack?

          • blight_

            Because you can kill the counter-torque ability of a helicopter by damage to the driveshaft, and not just damaging the rotor blades or the rotor assembly.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            But the helicopter is trashed either way.

    • Brandon

      I am surprised the military hasn’t experimented with NOTAR concepts more. I am sure one could be designed with a pusher function.

      • DukeFlyer
  • Starship Trooper

    With lessons learned from the V-22 and the F-35B can we please go back to the Tiltjet design?


      That is what I am talking about. But the trouble we went through to get our tilt-rotor to work. How hard will a tilt jet be?

  • Marine

    Why don’t they just buy the V-22? it exists and it works for the most part. If its not up to the job, modify it. Has to be cheaper than designing a whole new bird.

    • blight_

      I’m sure Bell will submit some kind of upgraded Osprey. For what its worth, Army was in the V-22 program before making an exit. If they had stayed, Osprey would have been an all-service aircraft.

    • John

      Cheaper? You’re missing the point. The point is to spend money. Lots and lots and lots of money. And that about it.

  • Mikey

    Looks like it needs a few more rotors, 3 or 4 at least. You can bet that we will not see this one ever get past the “Lots of Money” think stage.
    They say there is only so many ways to make a door knob, this door knob will never open the door. Can we just stop now and start over.

  • apachedave

    A quad rotor was what we Eric Shinseki was discussing ten years ago, and good reason why the Army never got into the V-22. It just could not lift enough to replace the CH-47, let alone have capacity like that of a C-130. But just like the C-27 Spartan, it will get claimed by the USAF to be summarily cancelled.

  • Lance

    I agree this may be a pipe dream for now. Be easier to buy V-22s to the Army than this. Overall the Army bloated budget on failed systems like GCV may kill or really delay this project to begin with.

  • Mystick

    They forgot the prop on the nose and the ducted fan in the middle that provides the plenum with air so it can be a hovercraft, too.

    Here’s one thing about helicopters… they are abnormally loud because of the interference pattern created by the shock waves coming off the two rotors(lift and yaw). They interfere with other at 90 degrees and create a third frequency shockwave(similar to heterodyning)… add another rotor on yet another axis(90 degrees to either of the existing) and you’ll have yet another heterodyned shockwave created.

    This vehicle, as envisioned, would be incredibly loud.

    • Guest

      Thank you…that was quite informative, and provided me with an insight that I have not previoously had

      • Dfens

        Funny thing is, you won’t even notice the extra noise because of the pusher prop, due to all the noise the interaction between that wing and the rotor will have. It’s a a hell of a lot closer to the rotor than anything on the tail boom.

  • Tribulationtime

    So Is V-22 a faliure? My Monster: Tilt engines. 1 grid-type propeler in front of nacelle for hover, and another conventional after for hover and level fly. A complex arangement of flaps in the horizontal wing to Coanda efect sustentation. And 2 APU kind turbines one for hover manouvers and other for help blowing over flaps, helping grid-propeler. Sorry no autorotation. And Yes if it crash crew would die.

  • The Battles in The Hindu Kush have shown the weakness of the Conventional Chopper in the Hot and High. Every design in Use dates To at least the early 80’s If not older Sure the avionics and Power Plants have gotten newer but the limits are the same. It’s time It’s overdue. Faster Higher better is the Way Fighters and military aviation has always aimed and yet Rotary wing seems stuck on more of the same.FVL is targeted by the Army who has the largest Rotary wing fleet to clean slate update and Faster higher better the Fleet.
    Five teams have offered projections so far for their entry. Only Three I consider Serious. The Two toss away are Penski whose Bird looks like the Graphic save it uses only a Ducted pusher and AVX who offers a box like hull with twin ducted fans and a kamov style coax ( it looks like a Updated Kamov Helix)
    The Three Real options
    Bell V280
    Sikorsky Boeing with a Raider Based Coaxial and pusher ( no wings)
    And last EADS eurocopter X3

  • @TerrantheEmpire
  • Jason

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in that “rendering.” It looks looks like a first year industrial design school project.


      I personally hope so. It looks like something out of Avatar. And we all know how well that went (stupid Cameron!)

  • citanon

    Well, the concept artist at least has a sense of humor…

  • William_C1

    If your looking for concepts, Sikorsky has a few good ones in their “X2” configuration, including one that has a slight resemblance to the RAH-66.

  • John

    Oh goody. Now the military can spend 15 years and a hundred billion dollars designing an aircraft that comes in at 300% of the “estimated” cost and then cancel the project, ensuring that the defense contractors made the maximum amount of money while delivering absolutely nothing to the US taxpayer.

    Exactly as planned.

  • Old Army Helo driver

    When looking at the drawing can anyone say “AH-56 Cheyenne” . “Old is new and new is old”. Our past history of compressability of the leading edge will be a major obstacle at top speeds, but the V-22 is not an answer. It is very difficult to land a bus during many of the tactical missions this platform will be used for.

  • ketchupaholic

    This concept would never fly. Must have been an April Fools joke. If that rotar tilts, bye.. bye…. wings. And all the torque on the frame from the rotors on the tail. HOGWASH!

  • I would like to see a VTOL design that replaced rotors with jet engines and changed it from a troop carrier to a full-fledged gunship. This would provide the best close air support for it deploys fast and is agile while having enough payload capacity to mount more then enough weapon systems to finish any job. Then integrate it with similar stealth capabilities found on the F-22 raptor or F-35 Lightning II. With this mixture of technology it would make that aircraft one of the most advanced and effective weapon platforms that exists today.

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