Members of the Future Vertical Lift Panel at the virtual 2021 iteration of AUSA’s Global Force event on 17 March provided updates on relevant programme developments: MON’s report focuses on four activities, which will deliver new aircraft and modernised legacy aircraft to the US Army.
The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme is developing a successor to the Bell OH-58 KIOWA scout helicopter. While Brig Gen Walter T Rugen, Director, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, said FARA is the Army’s “number one [aviation] gap,” the programme completed its final design and readiness review last December – providing two design iterations. The service will provide another FARA requirement to industry next month, “the follow-on after the two design iterations that we have done with industry.” Rugen also focused on the broader, concurrent, rapidly-maturing FARA ‘ecosystem.’ In February, the Army reportedly completed “an over-water, 32km shot with a SPIKE NLOS [Non-Line-Of-Sight anti-tank missile from Rafael]. This showed the lethal reach we will have with many of our capabilities coming along.” A first prototype FARA flight is scheduled for first quarter FY2023.
Rugen further reported the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) programme is continuing “its’ significant, successful momentum.” This is the follow-on to Sikorsky’s UH-60 BLACK HAWK utility helicopter. The next major FLRAA request for proposal to industry is due this summer, with contract award envisioned for fourth quarter FY22.
On 2 March, the Army completed a Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) rodeo to further inform the decision to replace the 30-year-old RQ-7 SHADOW UAS. Vendors and their products included: Martin (V-BAT), Arcturus (JUMP 20), L3 Harris (FVR-90), and Textron/AAI (AEROSONDE). Rugen told conference viewers the service will “‘AROC [Army Requirements Oversight Council] that tactical UAS requirement document in the coming weeks.” Importantly, FTUAS is a replacement platform and is expected to be an agile ‘eye-in-the-sky’ connected to an entire digital ‘ecosystem of data-sharing FVL aircraft.
Beyond new airframes, the Army’s future force vision will modernise its ‘enduring force’ of AH-64E APACHEs and other aircraft, by backfitting new, FVL-developed technologies, through the evolving Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) effort.
Marty Kauchak Reporting for MON from New Orleans