FARNBOROUGH NEWS: Army’s Future Vertical Lift Candidates Explore International Market (Updated)
Bell photoFARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom — The two teams vying to build the U.S. Army’s next generation attack helicopters are seeing demand from countries around the world for the rotorcraft technology they’re developing, executives said July 18.
The future attack reconnaissance aircraft — one of the programs that comprises the Army’s future vertical lift family of platforms — is nearing the final stages of the design process as competitors Sikorsky and Bell Textron wrap up their prototypes. Both companies see receptive international markets in the future, company officials said at the Farnborough International Airshow.
Bell Textron’s competitive prototype for the program, the Bell 360 Invictus is about 90 percent complete, said Chris Gehler, vice president and program director of future attack and reconnaissance aircraft at Bell Helicopter.
Meanwhile, As the competition continues, the world is paying attention, said Gehler, which could translate into future foreign sales.
“Whatever the Army gets, everybody wants to be a part of it,” he said. In addition, the Army will want allies to fly the same models.
International sales could be driven by price. The platform will be “a lot cheaper” than an Apache, for example, Gehler said. If there are enough foreign sales, it could also help drive down the Army’s program costs, he noted.
However, the program is still in the early stages, so the U.S. Army customer is the focus right now, he noted.
The aircraft could be adapted for each country, said Mike Reilly, Bell’s manager for public affairs and engagement. It’s likely different nations will want locally sourced parts and alternate configurations of the platform, he said.
Countries looking for similar platforms would be interested in the aircraft’s speed and range, Reilly said, declining to name specific nations.
“The value proposition for this aircraft is the same for the Army as it is for others,” Gehler said. “Speed for low cost, the affordability of it, and that's even more applicable to other countries.”
Meanwhile, Sikorsky — a Lockheed Martin company — was more open about interest in its future vertical lift platforms from NATO countries. It is pitching technology developed for both the Raider X, its FARA offering, and the Defiant X, its offering for future long range assault aircraft, to member countries and their allies, Luigi Piantadosi, Lockheed Martin director for international future vertical lift, told reporters.
“We are ready to promote this technology internationally,” he said. “The United States, NATO and all the NATO partners require now more than ever to work as a one force to stay really ahead of the growing threats,” he said.
He pointed to a memorandum of understanding signed by NATO leadership this year that signified its interest in the next generation rotorcraft capability, known as NGRC. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have dedicated more than 25 million euros to the program, according to a NATO press release.
There is “huge interest” for both Raider and Defiant independent of the NGRC. “Many” countries have been briefed on the technology, Piantadosi said.
One concept that has attracted the most attention is a “middle ground” platform, he added. It would be a rotorcraft in between the Defiant X and the Raider X, but there has been no official decision yet on what that would look like, he said.
“This is a very scalable technology, so we're in the best possible place” to develop that kind of aircraft, he noted.
The possibility of the aircraft performing civilian missions such as search and rescue hasn’t been ruled out, said Jay Macklin, director of future vertical lift at Sikorsky.
Clarification: A previous version of the story stated that Sikorsky was marketing the aircraft models to international customers rather than just the technology they are based on.