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Interview: Oshkosh on JLTV victory, capabilities, prospects

DefenceIQ - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 05:00
The U.S. Army’s nearly decade-long
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Increasing awareness of European Armament Cooperation

EDA News - Tue, 27/10/2015 - 12:32

From 27 to 29 October 2015, an Awareness Level Module of the European Armament Cooperation Course (EAC) is taking place at the European Defence Agency’s premises. Organised by the European Defence Agency (EDA), the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) and the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Sports, the course has attracted the highest number of attendees in its four-year history. Forty-six enrolled students represent thirteen EDA Member States, the European Commission, European External Action Service (EEAS) and Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). 

The aim of the EAC course is to enhance mutual understanding of the armaments cooperation issues and to serve as a useful networking platform to foster and harmonise armaments cooperation among the Member States. Most of all, it addresses junior personnel who need to gain knowledge and experience in international acquisition and project management. The course also complements the curriculums of available national courses. “We believe that the practitioners who work in national and international armament cooperation can highly profit from the course. We are able to provide them with practical knowledge and understanding of the armament sector along with its frameworks, the stakeholders’ tools and processes as well as challenges and benefits available at the EU level,” says Massimo Guasoni, the EDA Head of Unit Education, Training & Exercise.

Towards Europe’s strategic autonomy 

Rini Goos, the EDA Deputy Chief Executive, welcomed the course participants and, in his speech, he pointed out the key elements for European strategic autonomy and freedom of action: “Apart from working on capabilities, first of all, we must strive to enhance investment in traditional defence research, particularly in collaborative Research & Technology. Secondly, we need a sound European industrial policy. Thirdly, I would like to mention standardisation: a pan-European standardisation approach is the key to increase European competiveness on a global scale and to strengthen the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base Strategy; it is also the main driver for interoperability. And last but not least, civil-military ‘dual-use’ synergies need to be better exploited. It is only if we move ahead along these four strands of work that Europe will be able to attain strategic autonomy and become a security provider rather than a security consumer”.  

Dr Wolfgang Sagmeister from the Austrian MOD being the Course Director will make sure that all the course objectives will have been met. The topics on the agenda are much varied and include the presentations of the EDA and the ESDC; military dimension of the Common Security and Defence Policy; EU military capability development along with the EDA Capability Development Plan, current trends in military defence capability development; intercultural aspects in international cooperation; EU Defence policies in a wider context, and other.  

The EAC course traditionally comprises two parts: an Awareness Level Module taking place in Brussels, and an Expert Level Course, which will be held from 23 to 27 November 2015 in Warsaw, Poland. However, in order to attend the course, it is mandatory to complete an Internet-based Distant Learning (IDL) module offered by the ESDC. 

Shaping an educational platform Since 2006, the EDA had been working towards establishing a proper training frame in response to the growing needs for harmonised education in the armament acquisition field. In 2009, the Czech Republic’s EU Presidency supported the creation of a new European armaments cooperation course, providing an EU-wide training platform where a common understanding of a European approach to armaments cooperation could be promoted. The EDA Member States welcomed the initiative and later that year the EDA Steering Board, in the National Armaments Directors configuration, approved the top-level European Armaments Cooperation (EAC) Framework, under which the current course was established.

In 2013, thanks to the initiative of Austria and other like-minded countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the course took its current form. It followed the success of the pilot European Armaments Cooperation Course organised in Brussels and Stadtschlaining in 2012.

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M48 Chaparral - Mon, 26/10/2015 - 23:45

American M48 Chaparral Air Defense Missile System
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Sukhoi Su-33 - Sun, 25/10/2015 - 01:30

Russian Sukhoi Su-33 Carrier-Based Air Superiority Fighter
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Taian TA5450 - Fri, 23/10/2015 - 00:15

Chinese Taian TA5450 8x8 Special Wheeled Chassis
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M16 vs AK-47 - Wed, 21/10/2015 - 01:55

M16 vs AK-47. Which One is the Best?
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Consultation for sustainable energy in defence and security launched

EDA News - Tue, 20/10/2015 - 11:30

The European Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA) launched the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector today. The Consultation Forum highlights the importance of energy and energy security as a defence capability. Its aim is to examine how energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources might be better implemented within the European defence sector. 

“Europe’s armed forces are continuously working towards improving their energy efficiency as well as energy security. The consultation now offers an opportunity to explore important areas of energy policy implementation which will be of benefit to the armed forces as well as the EU as a whole. It also confirms the Agency’s unique position as interface between armed forces, European institutions as well as the expert community“, said Jorge Domecq, EDA Chief Executive, at the occasion of the consultation’s launch. 

"The Consultation Forum is part of a wider EU action to bring energy efficiency in all areas, including in the defence and security sector, allowing the sector to be a more competitive and efficient and to reap the full benefit of single market. The sector has a strong interest in reducing its energy footprint and could thus make an important contribution to the Union’s energy targets", said Paul Hodson, Head of Energy Efficiency Unit in the Energy Directorate General in the European Commission. 

The Consultation Forum brings together European experts from the energy and the defence sectors with the aim to deliver benefits in support of the European Commission’s energy efficiency and renewable policies. 

The Consultation Forum is divided into three working groups. The first examines the management and behavioural aspects of energy efficiency. The second tackles energy efficiency in relation to infrastructure primarily, but also in wider defence estate and – on request of Member States – in deployed camps within Europe and EU operations as well as other military platforms. The third addresses the use and production of renewable energy sources. 

All in all, it is estimated that 120 defence policy and planning as well as engineering and logistics experts plus representatives from academia, industry and national ministries will contribute to the work. The first plenary session of the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector will take place on 14-15 January  2016 in Brussels.   



The work is conducted under the umbrella of EDA’s Energy and Environment programme. The programme is designed to identify areas of common interest for European armed forces as well as to create and understand the framework for a comprehensive approach to energy management for military forces. The programme also aims to identify fully integrated solutions where both energy reduction and environmental impact are assessed together. The EDA Energy and Environment Working Group was established in June 2014 and has so far worked on a number of projects including the Strategic Research Agenda, a Demand Management (Smart Camp) Technical Demonstrator which has recently been deployed to Mali and Power Purchase Agreements (Go Green). 


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Practical training in Test & Evaluation Collaboration

EDA News - Mon, 19/10/2015 - 11:49

On 13-14 October 2015, the European Defence Agency (EDA) organised the Test & Evaluation (T&E) Collaboration Workshop to bring the concept of T&E Collaboration support closer to the Member States and, for the first time, to provide practical training in cooperation mechanisms and available tools

Representatives of six Member States participated in the training event, i.e. Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. The workshop was directed to national test centres, project managers and coordinators who may request the EDA T&E Collaboration support. 

The workshop’s agenda covered the whole package of available tools, not only the Defence Test and Evaluation Base (DTEB). Additionally, it offered practical training opportunities with exercises and tests to improve the understanding of the T&E Collaboration operation. 

The workshop started with the theory part, during which the participants were presented with how the EDA T&E Collaboration works, along with some way ahead for the future. The practical part of the training included live exercises with the use of dedicated support tools. In particular, the Defence Test and Evaluation Base (DTEB) was used for initiating cooperation, the Collaboration Database (CODOBA) tool for the management of the cooperation, and the Capability Development Plan (CDP)  for capability implications. Additionally, the training touched upon the standardisation aspects in accordance with the European Defence Standards Reference System (EDSTAR). 

The workshop participants discussed the utility of support tools and the practical ways of cooperation under the different schemes, e.g. test arrangements, Category A/B projects, working groups and EDSTAR expert groups. “The  constructive feedback from the participants will enable us to further optimise the tools and make them as user-friendly as possible,” said Thomas Honke, an EDA project officer on T&E, Qualification and Standardisation. The T&E Collaboration Workshop ended with an official hand-over ceremony of certificates. 

The EDA plans to offer further annual T&E collaboration training events using this format.


The European Defence Agency has taken up the initiative of supporting European Test and Evaluation (T&E) Collaboration in 2013 in a systematic approach. Since that time, the DTEB database has been created enabling enhanced networking amongst T&E facilities and capabilities in Europe. The database is additionally linked to the EDSTAR, CODABA and CDP tools in order to allow swift identification of potential cooperation opportunities and future T&E capability requirements for common staff targets. Moreover, the EDA has initiated a crosscutting T&E expert group in EDSTAR to identify best practice T&E standardisation and to further stimulate T&E cooperation.

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Red Tape in the Morning, Staff Officer’s Warning

Kings of War - Mon, 19/10/2015 - 11:40

Greetings CCLKOW readers. Today we bring to you a new guest author, @fightingsailor, an officer of the Royal Navy whose biography you can find below. In this piece he discusses the implications of budgets, efficiency and effectiveness. With the latest Strategic Defence and Security Review eagerly awaited here in the United Kingdom, the matter of managing defence in an era of constrained budgets weighs heavily upon the proceedings. In this piece, our author contends with the conflicts and contradictions of the various means to ‘do more with less.’ Although focussed on issues facing defence in the UK, as the American defence establishment grapples again with the demands of sequestration the piece should resonate with the audience on that side of the pond. So, read the piece, consider the questions, and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW.


“My department’s budget may be rising again but there will be no let-up in getting more value for money… Efficiency savings mean we will be able to spend more on cyber, more on unmanned aircraft, more on the latest technology, keeping ahead of our adversaries.”  – Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence [1]


In this short essay I will examine what value for money means in the context of Defence and whether the inevitable SDSR [2] drive for greater ‘efficiency’ is, in fact, counter-productive in achieving the purpose of the Armed Forces.

As the Secretary of State alludes, the drive for ‘Value for Money’ in Defence  is usually shorthand for efficiency.  Efficiency is the ratio of output to input.  In other words, the drive for greater efficiency means attempting to do more with less or, at least, doing the same with less or more with the same.  There are a couple of issues here for defence strategists.  First, there is an inherent assumption that we understand what our outputs are. We go to great lengths to define these and set up business agreements between the different parts of Defence to ensure that everybody plays their agreed part in delivering them.  This implies, generally, that the purpose of the Armed Forces is to output Forces ready to be used for operations. In part this is true, especially if one applies the POSIWID principle [3], but surely the purpose of the military is to deliver successful Government policy outcomes.  Many of the outputs of Defence may not be relevant to achieving such outcomes in any given crisis.  Take the recent Operation GRITROCK, the UK Military’s contribution to the fight against Ebola in West Africa.  This wasn’t part of any Force Design or Force Testing scenario that I am aware of, and was delivered using Forces whose justification for existence (and thus attribution of input resources such as funding) was for other Military Tasks [4], yet a positive policy outcome was achieved for Her Majesty’s Government. The point here is that where Military Forces exist, they are rarely used for the specific purpose for which their requirements were set, but rather they have broader utility as instruments for Government policy; providing that they exist in the first place.  This is particularly true of units such as warships where the variety of missions that, say, a Type 23 frigate is able to undertake is far in excess of the predominantly anti-submarine mission for which she was originally designed.  So, the Value for Money is generated by buying as much capability as you can afford that is useable in the broadest range of scenarios.

Except; this logic forces you down a route of planning for the most likely scenario.  In risk management terms this is planning for the expected outcome.  This approach works if you’re an insurer and can aggregate your risks across many thousands of policy holders; or a health service whose usage rates by a population can, on average, be meaningfully planned for.  But the Military instrument is not like that.  We have been seduced into thinking that military campaigns have a steady drumbeat of 6 monthly roulements through theatres: whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland or one of the many routine operational deployments of the Royal Navy.  If we gear our entire establishment around this model we will achieve efficiency (of sorts) but we will fail strategically.  I say this because what really defines successful use of the military is its response to crisis, and the sort of crisis that becomes generationally defining.  The Falkands in 1982 is the obvious post-WW2 example but Sierra Leone, Iraq in 1991and the Kosovo intervention are other examples where it went well.  Operational failure in warfighting, especially when vital national interests are stake, changes the international balance of power and can redefine a nation’s place in the world order – the outcome is of strategic significance. It’s the stuff that brings down Governments.  To be ready to respond to crises which are, by their nature, largely unexpected takes systemic agility.  This agility comes from diligent contingency planning and meticulous preparation but necessitates a substantial degree of spare capacity in the system that can be drawn upon when the unexpected occurs.  Spare capacity is, self-evidently, not a feature of an efficient system. This is not, therefore about the management of risks to outputs but, rather, about the uncertainty of outcome.  The difference between risk and uncertainty?  In the former the probability distribution of possible outcomes is known, in the latter it is not.  It means you need a different set of management techniques.  That’s why stockpiles and reserves must be maintained, even though they may not have been drawn upon for years, because if they are needed they will be needed in a hurry; and once the button gets pushed it will be too late if they do not exist.  A push for efficiency at the expense of all else risks confusing activity with effect.  So in all that we do we should prepare for the most extreme outcome: high-end warfighting against a world-class adversary.  This should drive our requirements, training and manpower but importantly it should drive our intellectual preparation.  Concepts and doctrine must drive the other lines of development towards dealing with the evolving character of warfare and novel technologies must drive, and be driven by, the need to retain operational edge.  Of course, this will be constrained by the available resource but we need the moral courage to balance the activity of today with setting the conditions for successful effect tomorrow.  Within a system incentivised by annual appraisal this is especially challenging.  Ironically, and perhaps even paradoxically, the better we prepare to win wars, the less likely it is that we will have to fight them and thus our Forces can be used more readily for lower intensity operations.  If you want peace, prepare for war!

But however we define our capabilities and capacities, surely within the Force Development and Generation cycles there are efficiencies to be had? Why don’t we just cut the ‘red tape’ and stop spending money on bureaucrats and pen pushers?  This is an attractive battle-cry when it comes to seeking ways to save money on the generation of military capability and, indeed, in the spending of public money in the round.  The problem, however, is that every bureaucrat, no matter how inefficiently they work, is there to service a process which fulfils a function.  To get rid of the bureaucrat you need to establish that their function is no longer required (at least in the same quantity). But most of these processes are conducted to give a degree of management control and/or assurance over different aspects of the organisation: financial management and probity; contractual propriety; safety and environmental management; commodities management; human resource; etc, etc.  So what functions can we do without? Well, none of them actually.  We can reduce the amount of each that we conduct but, here’s the crunch, we must then be prepared to delegate and empower individuals to do make decisions and commit resources without the levels of assurance and managerial control that have been previously demanded.  In short, we must take risk against these processes and this means that mistakes will occur more frequently; and we must accept that this is not failure, but the system working as it was now designed.  And if we want individuals to hold such increased risk personally, then we may find that they need greater recognition and/or remuneration as part of the deal for doing so.  Process and bureaucracy are like a kelp forest for a scuba diver – it is no one strand that substantially impedes your passage, but the overall effect means a disproportionate effort is required to make progress.

So, beware the inevitable ‘efficiency drive’ after the coming SDSR.  Without a properly reformed system that removes management and assurance processes and delivers a commensurate increases in delegation, it will simply be code for reducing the number of people available to complete a similar amount of process.  The strands of kelp get packed closer together and progress becomes harder than it was before.  There is a real risk of not only achieving a less efficient system as a result, but also one less effective at delivering its real purpose, achieving desirable government policy outcomes using the military instrument. And during the SDSR process the arguments must be made to retain as much high-end warfighting capability as we can possibly afford in order to give the agility to deliver such outcomes, including novel ones like cyber and unmanned systems.  And finally, having sufficient warfighting capability makes it less likely that you will have to use it for this purpose.  If you think peacetime Armed Forces are expensive, try having a war!

. . .

Following this review of the issues of defence management and budgets, the following questions are put forward for consideration and discussion:

1. Have western defence bureaucracies gone too far in adopting modern business practices and values? That is, do the terms of prudence in the private sector apply well to requirements of defence?

2. What should drive peacetime budgets and military plans? Should the aim be to spend the least and hope for the best until war arrives? 

3. Can armed forces and defence bureaucracies afford to reduce their processes and accept less control during peacetime?

4. What would you cut, and why?

. . .

@fightingsailor is a Royal Navy Weapon Engineer Officer with substantial operational and staff experience. At sea he has undertaken operational deployments to the Mediterranean (Libya), Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean (whilst participating in Operations DEFERENCE, ELLAMY, TELIC and KIPION); as well as to Arctic Russia, the Baltic region and the East Coast of the USA. Ashore he served in Afghanistan as the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) Liaison Officer to Task Force Helmand. Staff appointments have predominantly focussed on capability planning, management and strategy. They have included: the Ministry of Defence, PJHQ J6 and the Maritime Capability Division of Navy Command HQ. A graduate of the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Command and Staff Course (ACSC) he has a keen interest in developing ‘good thinking’ in Defence.




[1] Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 4 Oct 15, accessed 10 Oct 15.

[2] Strategic Defence and Security Review. The UK Government’s quinquennial review of Defence and Security Strategy.

[3] The Purpose of a System is What it Does. Brilliantly explained on the thinkpurpose website:, accessed 11 Oct 15.

[4] accessed 11 Oct 15.

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

EDA Continues Mine Counter Measures Activities - Two Maritime Conferences on the Way

EDA News - Mon, 19/10/2015 - 11:03

The European Defence Agency (EDA) is continuing to promote maritime affairs and to develop, with Member States, the next generation of mine counter measure solutions via the successful delivery of Unmanned Maritime Systems projects. 

The latest of the fifteen coordinated projects to be successfully delivered, that comprise the Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) Programme, one of the largest in the Agency, is the SIRAMIS project. This Dutch-led project, consisted of seven Contributing Members and addressed the knowledge gap of ship signatures with the overall aim of understanding ship signature interaction with multi-influence mines at a close range. This project presented a considerable challenge for the consortium, which comprised of industry, national research centres and academia, both in terms of signature measurement and signature analysis. It also placed an emphasis on cooperation and mutual support, which are the hallmarks of the EDA projects. 

With the successful delivery of this project, plans are at an advanced stage for a follow-on project that will build on the advancements already made and will further address the modelling and simulation dimensions. A feature of the UMS programme is the coordination between projects, and the developments and gains made have positive implications for the follow-on Modular Lightweight Mine Sweeping project that will be launched shortly. 

Maritime Conferences

The EDA is co-organising two conferences on maritime topics. These conferences present an opportunity to engage with key stakeholders and to fully explore and address the pertinent issues relating to the maritime domain. 

The first conference will be held on 29th October 2015 in Berlin and is co-organised with EuroDefense Deutschland. The conference will focus on key questions that relate to UMS and principally address the operational perspective of the introduction of UMS, collaborative efforts resulting in technological advancements and, lastly, the area of legislation, safety and regulation will be explored.  

The second conference will take place on the 12/13 November 2015 in Nicosia and is co-organised with the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Cyprus. The conference will be  conducted within the framework of the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Council. The focus of the conference will be on the Maritime Security Strategy and it will explore the challenges and potential benefits of the implementation of the strategy via its action plan. In particular, the conference will address Europe’s sea lines of communication and the challenges facing European navies. It will also examine the potential of the strategy to be considered as a catalyst for Civilian Military coordination.

More information:

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The Mr. Robot Prophecy: How likely is it that a cyber attack will cause a global meltdown?

DefenceIQ - Mon, 19/10/2015 - 06:00
This summer saw audiences tuning in to the first season of USA Network’s Mr. Robot , a show that has slowly become one of the most-watched new dramas in the US and just received its premiere in the UK last Friday. The series follows the life of an alienated young hacker w
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MAN KAT 1 4x4 - Mon, 19/10/2015 - 01:55

German MAN KAT 1 4x4 Tactical Truck
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Hades - Fri, 16/10/2015 - 20:55

French Hades Short-Range Ballistic Missile
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Video of a committee meeting - Thursday, 15 October 2015 - 15:10 - Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Subcommittee on Human Rights

Length of video : 124'
You may manually download this video in WMV (1.1Gb) format

Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

Defence Procurement Gateway: User Experience Survey

EDA News - Fri, 16/10/2015 - 09:17

The European Defence Agency invites all users of its Procurement Gateway to participate in a user experience survey. The gateway features defence related business opportunities and information. It aims at providing easy access to defence related information for European government officials, as well as industry representatives and researchers. 

The survey, available until 30.10.2015, will allow the Agency to better understand the needs and expectations of gateway users. It only takes a couple of minutes to be completed and all data shared will be of course treated with complete confidentiality and anonymity.

Share your user feedback, help us improve!

Participate in the survey here.

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New Council decision adopted

EDA News - Fri, 16/10/2015 - 08:00

The Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg has adopted the revised decision on the statute, seat and operational rules of the European Defence Agency.

The text is available here in all EU languages.

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JMR-FVL: Army Casts Dice for Future Helicopters

Defense Industry Daily - Fri, 16/10/2015 - 02:06
The future is now
(click to view full)

The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s estimated $100 billion Future Vertical Lift program, which is expected to replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 utility and AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.

In reality, FVL will fall far short of that number if it ever goes ahead, but those figures are the current official fantasy. While they’re at it, the Pentagon wants breakthrough performance that includes the same hovering capability as smaller armed scout helicopters, and a 100+ knot improvement in cruising speed to 230+ knots. That’s almost certainly achievable, thanks to new developments that involve very different helicopter designs.

The JMR-TD Precursor Program 2014 CSIS Panel

We’ll begin with the Army’s core justification for FVL, and its Joint Multi-Role Technology Development precursor:

“Recent study findings concluded that the DoD rotary wing aviation fleet is aging and upgrades to current fleet aircraft will not provide the capabilities required for future operations. Additionally, because of the time in service for currently fielded helicopters, many of the decision points for the future fleet will occur within the next 10 years. The Operational Tempo (OPTEMPO) in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was, and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is, five times that of peacetime, and much higher than the design usage spectrum, further taxing the already aging fleet. The current fleet of DoD rotorcraft cannot continue to be incrementally improved to meet future operational requirements. Significant improvement in vertical lift, range, speed, payload, survivability, reliability, and reduced logistical footprint are all required to meet future needs and can only be achieved through the application of new technologies and designs. Operational costs must be reduced to a fraction of those for the current fleet.”

This combination of significant improvements and much lower operating costs is almost always asked for. It almost never happens. The request is akin to demanding a major-league baseball player who hits 30+ home runs per season, with under 50 strikeouts. New technologies and designs mean risk and added complexity, both of which tend to increase maintenance and operating costs. They also tend to lower mission availability percentages.

Faster, please
click for video

On the other hand, profoundly new helicopter technologies are now in development for civilian as well as military applications, and new onboard monitoring systems and vibration control promise big improvements in maintenance and operating costs. There’s also a potential promise of significant parts commonality, and the US Marines’ UH-1Y/ AH-1Z program indicates that this is achievable in a utility/ attack helicopter pair.

So why not try? The point of JMR-TD, Phase 1 is to investigate some of the new technologies and configurations that are maturing, test metrics like weight and performance, identify performance and manufacturing risks, and improve analytical tools to deal with the new technologies.

Key Phase 1 criteria include a design that can perform medium utility or attack missions, a 230+ knot cruise speed (which stretches compound helicopters if you want them armed), the ability to hover out of ground effect at 6,000 feet in 95 degree temperatures, and a low noise level. That last item is a much-delayed but welcome recognition, and comes from hard experience in theater where loudness equals enemy warning time. Airframe life for Phase 1 prototypes need only be 200 hours or so, though it’s an advantage to be able to last longer.

Bell: V-280 Valor
(click to view full)

Can these new technologies be brought to a high enough Technology Readiness level for use in a defense Program of Record, while meeting performance goals? The Army is betting that they can, and 1st flights are expected in Summer 2017.

JMR-TD Phase 1. The original target was 2 award winners, but the solicitation acknowledged that 3 winners were possible, and there turned out to be 4: AVX, Bell, Karem, and Sikorsky-Boeing. From

“It is possible that, given multiple meritorious proposals and proposed work that offers the potential for significant improvement to the Government’s best available knowledge in the first nine months, more than two initial selections will be made. In that case, the number of participants may be reduced after the initial design and risk review to match available funding or to minimize program risk.”

The 4 bidders were initially asked to focus on the airframe for the utility role. After July 2014, the 2 surviving bidders will develop an airframe for flight testing by 2017. The Bell V-280 and Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 airframes wouldn’t have full avionics, or production-representative engines, but they’ll be a start. Meanwhile, other industry teams are working on a digital backbone for plug-in mission systems, and a parallel lab-based testing contract for the joint common architecture standard is also expected in July 2014.

JMR-TD Phase 2 This phase is expected to begin in 2017, and would develop mission systems that can be common to utility and attack helicopters. This phase is much closer to present reality. Bell Helicopter’s UH-1Y and AH-1Z already have a substantially common mission system, and Sikorsky is fielding “armed MH-60S” kits that are being installed by the US Navy in their maritime utility helicopters, as well as Battlehawk kits to arm the UAE’s UH-60Ms. Sensors and equipment are also keeping pace. There have been battlefield instances of AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilots asking the UH-60 Black Hawks they were escorting to use their onboard sensor turrets, because they were more modern and more capable than the Apache’s.

During JMR-TD Phase 2, the Army is expected to decide whether they want 1 airframe for both FVL roles, or different FVL attack/ utility variants.

Future Vertical Lift (FVL). This would notionally begin as an acquisition program in 2019, with an RFP that’s planned to be open to all contenders. That won’t mean much if the Army cuts AVX and Karem out in 2014, because they can’t self-finance for that long. On the flip side, while any success by those small contenders is a de facto elimination of either Sikorsky or Bell from JMR-TD, the magnitude of the FVL opportunity means they would be very likely to continue private development and bid on the FVL RFP. Sikorsky is already developing its X2 technologies regardless, and Bell has the V-22 Osprey business to fund continued refinement of tilt-rotor designs and technology.

JMR-TD Phase 1: The Finalists USMC MV-22Bs
(click to view full)

The finalists divide into 2 basic design groups: compound helicopters, and tilt-rotor. Co-axial designs tend to fit better on ships, thanks to their folding rotors and short tail booms. Tilt rotors generally have an easier path to hit speed requirements, but they require a lot of extra engineering for shipboard use, and can suffer by comparison in terms of lifting capability and operations and maintenance costs. They’re also considered to be more accident prone, though tilt-rotor advocates tend to argue that point.

AVX JMR AVX advantages

AVX began as a number of very experienced Bell Helicopter engineers who formed their own company in 2005, in order to pursue a low-cost, high-performance modification to the Army’s OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopters. By replacing the main rotor with rigid coaxial blades, and the tail with a much shorter tail hosting twin ducted fans, they could refurbish the fleet at relatively low cost, turning the helicopters into much faster machines with higher performance, and longer range.

That coaxial, twin-ducted design philosophy has carried over into their pursuit of the JMR-TD studies, and the funding they’ve received has helped keep the company going while it continues to pursue the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program.

(click to view full)

Aside from its larger size, their JMR design differs from their Kiowa upgrade by being entirely tailless, with a pair of stub wings mounted high near the front, in order to provide about 40% of total lift at speed. A rear ramp allows roll-on loading that can include 2x 463L cargo pallets, and fast exit by troops and even small vehicles. The compartment is wide, giving the helicopter a flattened oval cross-section. The attack version would just add a 30mm belly turret, plus floor weapon doors and internal extend-retract assemblies.

Flight is designed to be slightly nose-up to lower drag, and landing 5 degrees nose down has the effect of reducing brownout. They’re big on lowering drag, hence the use of ducted fans vs. the Sikorsky X2’s open pusher, and the tests of hub-and-mast fairings to reduce main rotor drag.

(click to view full)

Overall weight with 12 troops and 4 crew is reportedly 27,000 pounds, compared to 22,000 pounds for the UH-60M, and 17,650 pounds loaded for the AH-64. Sling load capacity would jump from 9,000 to 13,000 pounds, which creates the ability to lift key items like the Army’s M777A2 lightweight 155mm howitzer, even at altitude or in hot climates. Without the ducted pusher fans running, speed is a bit faster than X2 in the 170 knot range. With them, AVX believes they can hit the required 230 knots.

The catch is the same catch all competitors will face: engines. Making 230 knots with the 4,300 pound payload would reportedly require 4,600 shp engines, compared to the Black Hawk’s 1,700 shp T700s. The Army will need to think about this requirement if they’re serious about costs, because dropping the requirement to 200 knots would let AVX downshift to 3,100 shp engines. It’s a trade-off between fuel consumption and costs, vs. greater speed and big load lifting improvements.

Bell Helicopter: V-280 Valor (finalist) V-280 Valor

Bell Helicopter Textron’s V-280 Valor design differs from their V-22 Osprey, and can be seen in some ways as a 3rd generation tilt-rotor (GEN1 tilt-rotors didn’t become operational). Key differences include engines that don’t rotate – only the propeller assembly does. That avoids blocked lines of fire for door gunners, as is the case with the current V-22, and also removes landing surface damage from high-temperature exhaust out of its engines. Instead of the V-22’s rear ramp, the V-280 uses a pair of 6′ side doors, conforming to existing US Army practice.

The attack mission would take a leaf from the 7.62mm IDWS retractable gatling gun on the V-22, and use retractable weapon launchers.

V-22 manufacturer Bell is claiming a 280 knot/ 519 kmh cruise speed, a combat range of 500 – 800 nautical miles/ 925 – 1,480 km, 6,000 foot hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 95F temperature, a useful load of 12,000 pounds, and space for a crew of 4 + 11 troops. They also claim “suitable down wash,” and “significantly smaller logistical footprint compared to other aircraft.” Close parsing shows that neither statement actually means anything concrete. What it does show, is that Bell is conscious of the negative impact these issues have had on the Bell/Boeing V-22 program.

Other team members for the demonstrator include GE (T64 engine used in CH-53s), GKN (tail), and Moog (flight controls).

Karem: TR36TD OSTR TR36TD concept
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Karem Aircraft entered the mix in fall 2013. Their planned offering is the TR36TD Optimum Speed Tilt-Rotor Technology Demonstrator, with twin 36-foot, variable-speed swiveling rotors. Its design will be an important financial and engineering stepping stone along the way to their civil 90-seat “Aerocommuter” and 180-seat “Aerotrain” visions.

On the military end, their site touts an eventual TR75 JHL design that grows to become slightly bigger than a C-130, with a 330+ knot/ Mach 0.65+ cruising speed and a maximum payload of up to 36 tons. Karem Aircraft says that TR75 was extensively analyzed during the JHL program’s 2005-2007 cooperative development agreement phase, leading to a strategic teaming with Lockheed Martin as a production partner during the 2007-2010 CDA-X program extension. If TR75’s touted statistics ever came true, it would offer near-A400M level performance, with vertical/ short takeoff capability and better cruise efficiency. That’s quite the stretch goal, but Lockheed Martin took it seriously enough to create a hedge against the potential threat to its C-130x franchise.

JHL: TR75 concept
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Technically, Karem’s proposal is a farther reach than AVX’s, and might be laughed out of the room if it came from another source. But founder Abe Karem is best known for kick-starting the American UAV revolution with a viable and inexpensive garage-built product called Amber, after the ruinously-expensive performance disaster that was Lockheed Martin’s MQM-105 Aquila. Along the way, General Atomics bought Karem, his firm, and his technology from Hughes. Karem’s work and technology morphed into the Gnat UAV, which served over Bosnia and then morphed into the famous MQ-1 Predator. His current firm, Karem Aircraft, developed optimum-speed rotor (OSR) technology, which saves fuel and fine-tunes performance by varying the rotor’s speed in response to weight, conditions, etc. That core technology was sold to Boeing to create the A160 Hummingbird Heli-UAV, but Karem was left free to develop the underlying technology in other ways.

Karem hasn’t been known for his high opinion of large defense contractors and their performance, and JMR-FVL was shaping up as an excellent test of his belief in small staffs of very talented and motivated engineers. Unfortunately, budget cuts forced a finalist decision before the demonstrators could fly, and the Army picked the larger firms for policy reasons (q.v. Aug 25/14 entry).

Sikorsky & Boeing: SB>1 Defiant (finalist) JMR: UTX-BA
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From the Army’s point of view, this pair are the incumbents. Sikorsky’s UH-60 is their standard utility aircraft, and Boeing’s AH-64 is their standard attack helicopter. Their pedigree in the compound helicopter technologies they’re using goes back farther than Bell’s V-22, to the XH-59A/S-69 compound helicopter that reached over 200 knots in the mid-1970s.

Sikorsky’s X2 is a privately developed effort that combines a number of leading edge but mature technologies, including rigid coaxial rotors, a pusher propeller, fly-by-wire, vibration control, a composite fuselage, and an active elevator and rudders. Their demonstrator first flew in August 2008, and has reached over 260 knots. It’s being followed by the privately developed S-97 Raider project, which aims to produce a sleek scout/attack helicopter for special forces use that can carry 4-6 troops inside. Sikorsky is building the Raider with its own money, and many of its technologies and lessons are expected to find their way into the JMR’s larger “Team Defiant” project with Boeing.

S-97 Raider
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The Defiant’s main rotor provides extra lift at full speed, but if the pusher propeller is turned off, X2 machines behave like standard coaxial helicopters with speed up to 160 knots. If the pusher propeller is reversed, it helps with fast stops, and the entire system can be used to create much tighter turns than a normal helicopter, with maneuvers at or exceeding 3Gs. The demonstrator’s engines will be the same Honeywell T55 that equips CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

Sikorsky envisions their X2 technology in a range of helicopter sizes and roles, and the JHL contracts have already helped them investigate larger designs than JMR. Meanwhile, Sikorsky is touting their smaller, privately developed S-97 armed scout as a significant plus for FVL requirements, given their expectation that they could begin fielding S-97 units about 10 years earlier than FVL is expected. That lets them match Textron’s learning curve and production experience with the V-22, while having the smaller end of the FVL spectrum already covered.

Contracts & Key Events

Maj. Gen. Michael Lundy, the Army’s aviation chief, indicated that in facing two competing technologies from two vendors for the medium-capacity variant of the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army would like both. One can be fitted for the troop carrying role, and the other for the attack/reconnaissance role. The Bell V-280 Valor (tilt rotor) has been theoretically competing against the Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1Defiant. Lundy told that the decision was akin to the split between the Apache versus the Black Hawk.

The plan depends on the assumption – that other services have not been quite as bold in making – that sequestration will be lifted for FY 2016 onward. Lundy’s tone was fatalistic, indicating that the Army was planning for that one rosy scenario because the others – however likely – wouldn’t suit: “If we went to the worst case, it would affect almost every modernization program we’ve got in our branch.”

In addition to vanquishing sequestration, the Army’s modernization plans hinge on Congress approving their ARI plan, which involves shelving Kiowas and replacing that reconnaissance capacity with Apaches taken from reserve units, among other decisions that would be unpopular in many individual congressional districts.

Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider is relevant to this program, but is not a direct result of JMR-FVL. We cover it as part of the USA’s Armed Aerial Scout competition, where it’s a potential direct competitor.

FY 2015-2016

Spirit AeroSystems uvnveils fuselage for V-280. V-280 mockup build

October 16/15: Sikorsky is planning to increase tempo in testing of the company’s S-97 Raider, following the aircraft’s first flight in May. 110 to 120 hours of flight testing is expected, with the Raider’s technology forming a key aspect of the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, a finalist for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator and Future Vertical Lift (JVR-FVL) programs.

Competition from the Bell-Lockheed Martin V-280 Valor has led to contractual changes between the two developers to ensure that there isn’t spillover between the two designs when Lockheed Martin finalizes its acquisition of Sikorsky. Reports now indicate that this deal could be finalized by early November, following the green light from the US government in September, along with the Japanese and South Korean governments. The $9 billion takeover still requires some regulatory head nods before finalization, with the European Union and China expected to respond next week.

September 24/15: The fuselage of the Bell Helicopters V-280 tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft was unveiled by manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems on Tuesday. Assembled by the company’s rapid prototyping facility, the fuselage will be combined with the V-280 wing, engines and tails. The V-280 Valor design will compete with Sikorsky/Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant design from September 2017 in a two-year evaluation period for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. Both are part-funded through the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, part of FVL, with contracts awarded last year.

FY 2014

JMR awards 4 TD contracts; Budgets force narrowing to 2 JMR-TD demonstrators, small firms downselected out.

Oct 2/14: S-97 unveiled. Sikorsky formally unveils the first of two S-97 Raider armed scout compound helicopter prototypes, signaling the start of the program’s test flight phase. The S-97’s core X2 technologies will also be the core of the SB-1 Defiant. Sikorsky, YouTube video and “Sikorsky Unveils S-97 RAIDE™ Helicopter”.

Aug 25/14: Aviation Week reports that the SB>1 Defiant and V-280 Valor became JMR finalists because the Army made financial resources and commitment a priority. They wanted to be sure the demonstrators would be fielded for the flight tests, and both Bell and Sikorsky/Boeing are pouring far more than the mandated 50/50 cost sharing into their programs. Meanwhile AVX and Karem are waiting to hear if the Army will fund them to continue some technology development work.

On a technical level, the Defiant is a much easier challenge. Take existing X2 technology, and field a new design that meets designated performance criteria. It isn’t simple, but the smaller X2 has already shown the required speed, and the Defiant will be flying and ironing out handling issues before 2017. What they don’t want, is something that achieves all goals but costs much more than a new UH-60M.

The road is harder for the V-280, because they’re conscious of the V-22’s much higher base cost and huge operating costs. Weight and complexity drives a lot of cost, so they’re looking to reduce weight and simplify components, removing fasteners and using different composite constructions. That’s said to reduce wing production costs by about 30% vs. the V-22, but they’ll need to demonstrate long-term affordability in several other areas by the time the demonstrator flies. Sources: Aviation Week, “Affordability Challenge In Pursuit Of Army JMR/FVL”.

Aug 12/14: Finalists. The US Army has chosen large firms as JMR-TD finalists, asking for flying demonstrators of the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant compound helicopter and Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor. Flights of their respective prototypes are expected in 2017.

AVX’s compound helicopter, and Karem’s optimum-speed tilt-rotor, are eliminated. As DID had noted:

“…[A future open RFP for FVL] won’t mean much if the Army cuts AVX and Karem out in 2014, because they can’t self-finance for that long. On the flip side… the magnitude of the FVL opportunity means they would be very likely to continue private development and bid on the FVL RFP. Sikorsky is already developing its X2 technologies regardless, and Bell has the V-22 Osprey business to fund continued refinement of tilt-rotor designs and technology.”

Both AVX and Karem are far more dependent on government financing for continued development, though Karem still has a small source of funds via DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane program. Even so, with American land and naval helicopter programs essentially set over the medium term, the losing firms face a dilemma. Absent significant outside investment based on expected commercial sales, they face a difficult path to realizing and selling their designs, and becoming established competitors. Sources: Sikorsky, “Sikorsky, Boeing Selected to Build Technology Demonstrator for Future Vertical Lift, SB>1 Defiant expected to fly in 2017” | Reuters, “Boeing-Sikorsky team, Bell selected for U.S. helicopter program”.

JMR Finalists: Defiant vs. V-280

Aug 1/14: JMR. The US Army was supposed to announce its finalists in July, but that didn’t happen. Instead, they plan to gather the 4 teams some time in late August or early September, tell them which 2 contractors are going forward, and discuss what’s next for the program. Current plans involve $350 million available through fiscal 2019. Sources: Defense News, “US Army’s JMR Helo Selection Slips”.

July 11/14: JCA picked. The US Army reportedly picks Boeing and Sikorsky for the Joint Common Architecture component of the JMR program. This pick only covers the helicopter’s core electronics; selection of this team’s SB>1 Defiant is a separate matter. Sources: #W911W614R0002, “Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) Joint Common Architecture Demonstration (JCA Demo)” | Sikorsky, “Sikorsky, Boeing Selected to Develop “Digital Backbone” for Future Vertical Lift Program”.

June 4/14: The services have had to fight to protect JMR budgets, and the Pentagon’s deputy director of land warfare, munitions and tactical warfare systems is admitting that the JMR manufacturing phase is likely to be late at best.

“Officials said the military services are having to trade off new weapon systems to fund their payroll…. [Jose M.] Gonzalez said the joint multirole rotorcraft, or JMR, technology demonstration might not lead to the procurement of new aircraft within the desired timeline, but could “feed alternatives other than a new-start program … such as major upgrades or changes in con-ops [Concept of Operations].”

That first sentence is the beginning of a long-term death spiral, whose future end point can be seen today in countries like Belgium. With respect to FVL’s future, the nature of AVX’s technology makes it a good candidate for upgrades, but other than that, the radically different designs sharply limit upgrade potential, unless we’re talking about upgrades at a component or materials level. Common mission systems are another area that could see improvement, but that can be pursued on its own outside of FVL/JMR.

Meanwhile, the program remains on track to pick 2 Technology Development finalists. Analyst Roman Schweizer of Guggenheim Securities continues to favor Bell and Sikorsky, but he adds that: “If AVX or Karem pull off an upset, we would expect them to partner with a larger manufacturer, giving the losing primes a way back into the program.” That could make it more palatable for the Pentagon to include one of the smaller firms as a finalist. Sources: NDIA National Defense, “Bumpy Ride Ahead for Military’s Future Helicopter Program”.

May 7/14: F-35?!? Lockheed Martin showcased an F-35 flight simulator at the Army Aviation Association of America’s Mission Solutions Summit. Why? Not to promote the well-known LiftFan, but to promote the mission system and helmet-mounted display/ distributed sensors combination:

“Lockheed is working on the development of a single “common missions system” that could be integrated into light, medium, heavy and ultra-heavy future vertical lift aircraft.”

That isn’t completely far-fetched. It’s already part of FVL’s goals, and Northrop Grumman already provides a common avionics set and mission system for the USMC’s UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. It would save a lot of money on maintenance, training and upgrades. Lockheed Martin is currently part of Bell’s V-280 team within FVL/JMR, but this is an interesting way for a large sub-contractor to hedge their bet. Sources: Flightglobal, “Lockheed pitches F-35 technology for US Army’s future vertical lifter”.

May 7/15: Schedule. Defense News reports that the 2 JMR-TD finalists won’t be picked until July 2014. That month will also see a contract award for lab testing of a “joint common architecture” standard for a digital backbone, which will allow mission systems to be plugged into the aircraft. Sources: Defense News, “Step by Step: US Army Slowly Nears Apache, Black Hawk Replacements”.

May 5-7/14: Bell V-280. More V-280 Valor tilt-rotor sub-contractors are announced. Astronics will contribute solid state primary and secondary electrical power distribution systems, after partnering in these areas on Bell’s new 505 light and 525 mid-range civil helicopters. Meggitt will provide the fuel system.

Eaton, meanwhile, is providing the V-280’s entire hydraulic system including engine-driven pumps, reservoirs, fuses, hoses, quick disconnects, tubing and the main engine starting subsystem. Sources: Bell Helicopter, “Bell Helicopter, Astronics Announce Cooperative Agreement” and “Bell Helicopter, Eaton Announce Cooperative Agreement” | Rotor & Wing, “Bell Reaches Deal with Meggitt, Astronics, Eaton for V-280 Tiltrotor”.

Oct 22/13: Early narrowing. The US Army is planning to narrow the JMR field from 4 bidders to 2 in June 2014, per the stipulations in the original solicitation if bid quality made the Army pick more than 2 designs initially. Bell President and CEO John Garrison offers optimistic thoughts:

“We also believe that with the maturity of this technology, as we look forward, it doesn’t need to take to 2035… That’s the current schedule, but from a technology standpoint, we… believe this can be shifted to the left [DID: earlier]. I know that sounds like a challenge in today’s budgetary environment, but you have to plan beyond the current crisis.”

JMR-TD Phase 2 would begin in 2017 focus on mission systems, while the Army decides whether they want 1 airframe for both Future Vertical Lift roles, or different FVL attack/ utility variants. Sources: IHS Jane’s 360, “AUSA 2013: Army to downselect to two JMR-TD bidders in 2014” | Defense News, “Bell President Says JMR Schedule Could be Accelerated.”

HPW3000 promo
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Oct 21/13: Next engines? The US government’s Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine program (AATE) program begins to show public results, with PW/Honeywell’s ATEC joint venture touting its HPW3000’s performance in early tests. Their competitor is GE’s GE3000.

Within the Army, the application of these technologies will fall under AATE’s follow-on Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). Its goal is a 3,000 shp turboshaft that also delivers AATE’s desired 25% better fuel efficiency, 20% longer engine life, and 35% maintenance cost improvements. All in a package that could act as a drop-in replacement for the AH-64E’s current T700-GE-701D, which delivers 2,000 shp. Assuming they can deliver, AH-64 on-station time could rise by an hour or so, or see range extensions and better altitude limits. As an alternative, the helicopter could carry about 3,300 more pounds of payload under better conditions. If the companies could deliver on the reliability goals as well, the combined value of those maintenance and longevity improvements for the UH-60 and AH-64 fleets could add up to $1 billion over the engines’ life cycle.

ITEP’s winner could also find its way into any future FVL helicopter. Sources: Pratt & Whitney release, Oct 21/13 | Aviation Week, “Teams Test More Powerful Engines For U.S. Army Helicopters” | ATEC JV site | ATEC HPW3000 infographic [PDF] | GE3000 page.

Oct 22/13: S/B Defiant. At AUSA 2013, Sikorsky and Boeing unveil “SB>1 Defiant” as the name for their JMR entry. Asked about the name, Sikorsky representatives explained that it should be read “SB-1”, as if it was a fancy dash. “However, you could infer that the combination of both companies is better or greater than either company individually.”

Definitely too cute by half.

Oct 16-21/13: Bell V-280. Bell Helicopter announces a number of V-280 Valor tilt-rotor sub-contractors. AGC Composites and Aerostructures will design, develop and manufacture the over wing fairing. GE will supply the engine. GKN will manufacture the rear V-tail structure. Finally, Boeing spinout Spirit AeroSystems will handle design and production of the main fuselage.

GKN’s expertise is in metalworking and composite construction, and AGC offers expertise in that field as well. Spirit is an important contributor to a number of civil airliner programs, including part of Boeing’s 787 fuselage. GE’s engine isn’t specified, and remains ambiguous. GE is developing the 7,500 shp GE38 for the CH-53K helicopter program, which would offer 22% more power than the V-22’s Rolls Royce AE 1107C. The release also has GE referring to technologies being studied under the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program, however, which suggests a possible new design. That would be very expensive, compared to an adaptation of an existing design. Sources: Bell Helicopter, Oct 16/13 (GE), Oct 17/13 (GKN), Oct 18/13 (AGC), and Oct 21/13 (Spirit) releases.

Oct 9/13: Bell V-280. Bell Helicopter announces that they’ve picked Moog Inc. for the V-280’s integrated flight control system, including flight control computers, flight control actuation, and support software. Sources: Bell Helicopter, Oct 9/13 release.

AVX advantages
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Oct 2/13: JMR-TD. Pentagon contracts aren’t being announced publicly, but AMRDEC has reportedly signed JMR-TD contracts with 4 vendors, not just the 3 initially picked. The contracts were scheduled for September 2013, and may well have been signed in FY 2013, but that’s unclear. Dollars amounts are equally unclear, but the awards are reportedly 9-month CRADAs (cooperative research and development agreements) aimed at refining each design and reducing/ identifying technical risks. Afterward, it’s expected that 2 firms will be picked to actually build prototypes and conduct flight tests by 2017. Winners include:

  • AVX: JMR-AT/UT compound coaxial tailless helicopter.
  • Bell Textron: V-280 Valor twin tilt-rotor.
  • Karem Aircraft: TR36-TD optimum speed rotor twin tilt-rotor.
  • Sikorsky & Boeing: X2 compound coaxial helicopter.

X2 technology has already passed the flying demonstrator stage, but the V-280 remains a paper concept, albeit one backed by experience building V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors. It won’t be easy for AVX or Karem to overcome those advantages with a design, but surprises are always a possibility, and they need any source of customer financing they can find for continued technology development. Sources: Bell Textron, Oct 8/13 release | Aviation Week, “Karem Unveils Variable-Speed Tiltrotor For U.S. Army JMR Demo” | Defense News, “Four Companies Get US Army’s Nod to Begin Critical Helicopter Designs”.

JMR-TD contracts

FY 2013

JMR-TD RFP; Initial winners picked, contracts follow. Sikorsky X2, 2012
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Sept 9/13: Bell V-280. Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin announce a Tier 1 partnership on the V-280 tilt-rotor, with Lockheed Martin in charge of mission systems: avionics, weapons integration, etc. It’s the same kind of role that Boeing is playing for Sikorsky’s X2. Sources: Bell Textron, Sept 9/13 release.

Aug 12-13/13: Industry Day. US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) holds a meeting to present the results of the JMR TD Mission Systems Effectiveness Trades and Analysis (MS ETA) Technology Investment Agreements (TIAs). The meeting will be held at the Jacobs Theater in Ft. Eustis, VA.

June 5-6/13: Who’s picked? Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor, and Sikorsky/Boeing’s compound helicopter using X2 technology derivative, are picked by the US Army for JMR Technology Development contracts. Flight International reports that AVX’s tailless compound helicopter was also picked, along with Bell and Sikorsky/Boeing.

The Army is expected to award JMR-TD contracts by September 2013. If 3 contracts are awarded in September, there’s likely to be a cutoff to 2 competitors at the initial design and risk review, in Spring 2014. First flight of the 2 demonstrator machines is scheduled for 2017.

X-49 Speedhawk (a modified UH-60) developer Piasecki was not picked for JMR-TD. Flight International doesn’t say so, but to our knowledge, the X-49A’s Army tests didn’t exceed 180 knots. That stands in contrast to the X2 demonstrator’s recorded 261 knots, and the V-22 Osprey’s 250+. The Army’s solicitation had already made the decision between retrofit potential and total performance, and so Piasecki will have to wait for another opportunity. In the coming budget crunches, it just might get one. Bell Helicopter | Flight International.

JMR-TD1 picks

May 29/13: EADS out. EADS North America CEO Sean O’Keefe sends a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Heidi Shyu, informing her that they’re pulling out of the JMR-TD competition. Their platform hadn’t been officially revealed, but was almost certain to be their X3.

The firm has reportedly decided to focus its energies on its AAS-72+ submission for the Army’s Armed Aerial scout, which is a close derivative of the conventional UH-72A Lakota/ EC145 design currently serving with Army National Guard units. In his letter, O’Keefe reportedly cites both the FVL’s “very long term… open-ended industry resource commitment,” and ongoing budgetary uncertainty. Translation: high investment required, low confidence in the program’s future. Aviation Week.

April 10/13: V-280. Bell Helicopter revealed its tilt-rotor V-280 Valor offering for the Joint Multi Role / Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Technology Demonstrator (JMR/TD) competition, during the Army Aviation Association of America’s 2013 expo in Fort Worth, TX. A YouTube promo is included, along with notional performance statistics. Unlike some observers, we really liked the video game buddies to front line motif. These days, that sort of thing really happens.

Note that our standard for “notional” is whenever no examples of type have been built and tested yet. By this standard, all JMR competitor designs will have notional performance figures. Bell Helicopter.

Feb 28/13: X2. Unsurprisingly, the Sikorsky/Boeing team decides to build on the already-flying X2 for their JMR submission. Boeing does have other technologies it could apply, but none have X2’s maturity level.

The team also makes some smart structural choices. Sikorsky will take the lead role in this JMR TD Phase 1 proposal, since the core X2 technology is theirs. Boeing knows much more about mission systems for attack helicopters, and they’ll take the lead role for the Phase 2 mission systems demonstrator program. Boeing | Sikorsky.

Jan 13/13: X2. Sikorsky teams up with Boeing, as they agree to submit a joint proposal in response to the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator (TD) Phase 1 program.

Boeing makes the AH-64 attack helicopter and CH-47F heavy-lift helicopter. They’re also Bell Helicopter’s partner for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor that currently serves with the USMC and Special Forces, but didn’t partner with Bell this time around. Sikorsky.

Aug 17 – Dec 17/12: JMR. The US Army releases its Broad Agency Announcement for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Phase 1 – Air Vehicle Development. The final draft is released on Dec 17/12. The original target was 2 award winners, but the solicitation acknowledged that 3 winners were possible:

“It is possible that, given multiple meritorious proposals and proposed work that offers the potential for significant improvement to the Government’s best available knowledge in the first nine months, more than two initial selections will be made. In that case, the number of participants may be reduced after the initial design and risk review to match available funding or to minimize program risk.”


JMR-RD Phase 1 RFP

FY 2005 – 2012

JHL and JMR studies contracted; JMR firms up, with Special Forces involvement; Sikorsky wraps up successful X2 program; Competitors position themselves. Early Army concept
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July 27/12: EADS. EADS North America lands the X3 demonstrator at the Pentagon. DEW Line.

Jan 19/12: SpecOps, too. Defense Tech quotes SOCOM Col. Charles Yomant, who says SOCOM is working very closely with Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield’s team on inserting their requirements into JMR. Crutchfield himself confirms this, adding that an SOF aviator is working with his team at Fort Rucker, AL.

Dec 9/11: JMR. The US Army begins to talk publicly, specifically naming a JMR program It’s described as:

“…a far-reaching Science and technology effort designed to engineer, build and deliver a next-generation helicopter with vastly improved avionics, electronics, range, speed, propulsion, survivability, operating density altitudes and payload capacity…. able to sustain speeds in excess of 170 knots, achieve an overall combat range greater than 800 kilometers (combat radius of 424 kilometers) and hover with a full combat load under high/hot conditions (altitudes of 6,000 feet and 95 degrees F)…. Planned mission sets for the JMR include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support, vertical replenishment, airborne mine countermeasures, and others….”

The initial focus involves medium lift options, though the Army does intend to field an attack variant as well. Future Vertical Lift also gets a mention:

The over-arching JFVL efforts span a range of four classes of future aircraft, ranging from light helicopters to medium and heavy-lift variants and an ultra-class category designed to build a new fleet of super-heavy-lift aircraft. The ultra-class aircraft…. described as a C-130 type of transport aircraft, is part of an Air Force led, Army-Air Force collaborative S&T effort called Joint Future Theater Lift, or JFTL.”

Nov 8/11: JMR. At the AUSA 2011 expo, US Army PEO Aviation Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby discusses:

“…a 2030 aim point for a Joint Multi-Role kind of system – I am not going to name it today as JMR but people are kind of referring to it as that – but a system that is scalable in its architecture. And our focus will be, we believe, towards a Utility/ Attack variant… That’s the investment we need to continue to focus on while we continue to sustain and modernize our fleet that is currently in the fight.”

Meanwhile, Flight International offers pictures of Bell-Boeing concepts for “JMR,” which were shown in their booth. The somewhat crude designs are tilt-rotors with V-tails, and the larger example has what is described as “three pairs of scissor blades”. David Axe of WIRED Defense sees wholesale replacement with ‘son of Osprey’ as “doubling down on a risky bet,” though he does acknowledge a few improvements in the new designs. Defense Media Network | Flight International | WIRED Danger Room.

Sept 29/11: CTA studies. The US Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at Redstone Arsenal, AL has awarded 18-month Technology Investment Agreements to 3 competitors: Boeing, a Bell-Boeing team, and Sikorsky.

AVX Corporation, which is led by the former Head of Engineering at Bell Helicopters, gets a 15-month contract worth $4 million. Other competitors’ awards aren’t disclosed, which implies that they were under the $5 million threshold.

Their job is to conduct analytical studies and trade assessments designed to articulate the scope of what might be technically possible. That means Configuration and Trades Analysis (CTA) studies aimed at giving defensible estimates for cost, schedule, and technical risk elements for next generation rotorcraft; and firm up their approach to meet the Army’s future requirements. AVX [PDF].

JMR studies

July 14/11: X2. Sikorsky formally wraps up its self-funded X2 R&D program, after 23 test flights and a maximum cruise speed of 253 knots in level flight on Sept 15/10. The design, technology, and team aren’t going anywhere, though. They’re just transitioning to the self-funded S-97 Raider armed scout and special forces application demonstrator, which Sikorsky has picked as its first development of X2 technology. Sikorsky.

X2 development done

Sept 20/05: JHL studies. The US Army awards a set of conceptual design and analysis contracts for the Joint Heavy Lift program, which is envisioned a sa long-term replacement for the CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters they’re ordering. About 5 contracts are issued, for about $3.5 million each. The winners were:

  • Sikorsky X2C, X2 Technology Crane – coaxial rotor (165 knots, eliminated)
  • Boeing ATRH, Advanced Tandem Rotor Helicopter (165 knots, eliminated)
  • Sikorsky X2HSL, X2 Technology High Speed Lifter – advancing blade compound (245 knots);
  • Bell Boeing QTR, Quad Tilt Rotor (275 knots); and
  • Frontier Aircraft OSTR, Optimum Speed Tilt Rotor (310 knots).

Frontier Aircraft is eventually bought by Boeing, and 2 of the design are eliminated in late 2007 when the Army decides to add aerial refueler capability and make the minimum speed 220 knots.

Read “Joint Heavy Lift Program: Breakthrough, Borg, or Backwater?” for full coverage of the effort, which eventually stalled out completely before resurfacing, yet again, in the Future Vertical Lift concept. On the other hand, it allowed a number of current competitors a few more R&D dollars to play with, and spurred serious development of technologies like X2.

JHL studies

Additional Readings Background: JMR-FVL Program & Contenders

News & Views

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Boeing to Pay $18M Settlement to US Gov | Saudis Ink Deal for 320 PAC-3 Interceptors | Ecuador Terminates HAL Contract

Defense Industry Daily - Fri, 16/10/2015 - 02:05

  • A $121.4 million order for 19 MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs back in June has now been revealed as the first order for the Improved Gray Eagle configuration, first introduced in July 2013. The new model uses a heavier airframe and a new engine to increase fuel capacity, range, internal payload weight and take-off weight. The Army is also now looking to introduce more weapon options and other improvements for the Gray Eagle.

  • Boeing has agreed to pay $18 million to settle False Claim Act allegations that the company’s workers charged the US government for breaks while carrying out maintenance work on US Air Force C-17 Globemasters. The allegations were uncovered by a former Boeing whistleblower, who will receive $3 million of the settlement, along with legal fees from Boeing. The overcharging allegedly took place at the company’s Long Beach Depot Center in California, with Boeing knowingly charging the government for hours spent by workers on lunch and other breaks; Boeing has not conceded liability for this claim.

  • Sikorsky is planning to increase tempo in testing of the company’s S-97 Raider, following the aircraft’s first flight in May. 110 to 120 hours of flight testing is expected, with the Raider’s technology forming a key aspect of the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, a finalist for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator and Future Vertical Lift (JVR-FVL) programs.

  • Competition from the Bell-Lockheed Martin V-280 Valor has led to contractual changes between the two developers to ensure that there isn’t spillover between the two designs when Lockheed Martin finalizes its acquisition of Sikorsky. Reports now indicate that this deal could be finalized by early November, following the green light from the US government in September, along with the Japanese and South Korean governments. The $9 billion takeover still requires some regulatory head nods before finalization, with the European Union and China expected to respond next week.


  • The Royal Air Force has ceased providing Search and Rescue (SAR) services for the United Kingdom mainland, with the Royal Navy scheduled to follow suit next year, with the responsibility then falling to a civilian government agency and private contractors through a GBP1.6 billion contract awarded in March 2013. The RAF’s H3 Sea King helicopters used to conduct SAR operations are being retired as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and private company Bristow Helicopters Ltd are phased-in to replace them. The latter will eventually become wholly responsible for the mainland UK’s SAR coverage.

Middle East North Africa

  • Saudi Arabia has signed a deal with the US for 320 PAC-3 interceptor missiles, with this following a DSCA request in July for 600. The new missiles will modernize the Saudis’ Patriot air and missile defense systems, with the request valued at $5.4 billion. The Saudi government is also reported to be pushing ahead with plans to acquire the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, along with the remaining 280 PAC-3 missiles. This news comes on the heels of reports earlier this week that the Kingdom is mulling a possible acquisition of Israeli short-range air and missile defense systems; these would complement the medium and long-range capabilities of the Patriot and THAAD systems.

  • The country has also requested nine UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, along with auxiliary equipment, spares, and logistical support in a potential deal valued at $495 million. The Kingdom has already ordered a number of UH-60Ms, previously requesting 72 helicopters along with other US equipment. Other regional states have also ordered the Sikorsky helicopter, including Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Shia militias are reportedly modifying tanks supplied to the Iraqi government by the US, adding Russian machine guns along with Iranian ammunition to an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. Although possibly an isolated case, the modification could be a violation of the Foreign Military Sales contract the country signed with the US; both the gun alteration and the possibility that the tank was delivered to Shia militias for use against ISIS. Worries over the tanks ending up in militia hands were first seriously raised in January when a video emerged of a M1A1 in a convoy of Hezbollah vehicles, along with several other US-supplied armored vehicles.

Asia Pacific

  • After delivering seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Ecuador, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has now seen its contract with the country terminated after Quito unilaterally withdrew on Wednesday. Four of the seven helicopters – delivered through a contract signed in July 2008 – have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish]. HAL saw Boeing back out of a deal with the company in July, citing shoddy manufacturing quality. The company has also seen crash statistics for its licensed-manufactured aircraft (including the Su-30MKI and Hawk AJT) grow alarmingly in recent months.

Today’s Video

  • A F-35C taking off from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) during recent trials which concluded earlier this month:

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