AUSA News: Army Wants Allies in on Future Vertical Lift

By Meredith Roaten

Army photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Army’s team for next-generation helicopters and drones wants to bring more allies into the development process for its major programs, an official said Oct. 10.

The United Kingdom and the Netherlands already have cooperation agreements with the Army, said Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the future vertical lift cross functional team. But the service is working to secure additional ways to bring its allies into the fold.

“More project agreements are probably in the works, but those are pre-decisional based on senior leadership at the department and the other countries finally agreeing,” Rugen said during the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The United Kingdom and United States signed the program feasibility assessment earlier this year to ensure interoperability between the platforms developed out of future vertical lift — which includes the future long range assault aircraft and the future attack and reconnaissance aircraft — and the U.K.’s future systems.

The Netherlands signed a similar agreement in July.

“Technological cooperation through arrangements like this improves our ability to collectively modernize and increase interoperability ensuring we can train and fight alongside our allies and partners more effectively and efficiently,” said Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology in a press release at the time.

The agreements this year lend additional freedom for the United States to provide partners insider information, Rugen noted.

“It gives us the authority to discuss at a higher classification level, our requirements and concepts, and so the info sharing is robust as well with our partners now,” he said.

Australia’s military has an embedded exchange officer in the future vertical lift cross functional team, which has led to “the Aussies working hand in glove with us,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Army’s aviation officials were tight-lipped about the progress on the service’s helicopter programs. The decision on the future long range assault aircraft, or FLRAA, is expected in a “relatively short” time period, Rugen said.

While he declined to elaborate further on why the Army is taking an extended time to award a contract for FLRAA, he said he has been “impressed” by what the team has been able to do with additional funding from Congress to reduce risk.

He noted the cross functional team identified the risk with the help of an outside team from the Pentagon.

“They talked about the technologies that we have to really resource at a heavier rate to get the risk down,” he said. “And I've been very pleased with that risk reduction effort.”

The future attack and reconnaissance aircraft, or FARA, program is slowed as competitors await a completed engine for the platform. However, the current continuing resolution and uncertainty about when the Defense Department will have a 2023 budget has some in industry speculating that FARA could be grounded and revisited later in the decade.

After initially facing COVID-19-related supply chain delays, the improved turbine engine program, or ITEP, completed the First Engine to Test for the new T901 engine over the summer, Rugen noted.

While the delivery to FARA competitors may be delayed beyond the end of the year deadline, delivery is not part of the critical path for first flight, Rugen noted.

“So we see opportunity to claw back — if the delay is days, weeks — that we can claw back,” he said.


Topics: Army News

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