U.S. Army Awards JMR Study Contracts

by: Matthew Potter
October 18, 2011

Category: Bell, Boeing, Business Line, Companies, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, FMS, Military Aviation, production program, Proposal, Services, Sikorsky, Textron, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, UTC | RSS 2.0

Currently the U.S. Army, Navy and many Allied nations rely on the Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for the medium lift mission. The Blackhawk entered service in the late Seventies as a replacement for the venerable UH-1 Huey aircraft. Since 9/11 it has been heavily used in Iraq and Afghanistan flying several hundred thousand flight hours.

The Army is working on a long range replacement program for the Blackhawk called Joint Multi Role (JMR). This will be an aircraft that not only will take on the UH-60 missions but may also form the basis for a new attack or scout helicopter like the UH-1 did with the AH-1 Cobra.

As part of this program the Army went ahead and awarded contracts to four different companies to conduct long term research and design studies for the future JMR.

Interestingly enough one of the contracts was awarded to AVX Aircraft of Texas. This is a new company started by mainly former Bell employees that has produced an interesting concept for the Army’s new scout helicopter the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS).

The AAS is a follow on to the cancelled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) which had been started as the Bell ARH-70 Arapahoe to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior but was cancelled in 2008 due to cost and schedule issues. AVX has come up with a plan to fit the OH-58 with two rotors and ducted fans that push it to increase speed, range and payload. Similar concepts could be used to meet the JMR requirements.

The other contracts went to the more traditional Boeing (BA), Sikorsky, and Bell, part of Textron (TXT). These all have current military aircraft flying and they may offer more traditional ideas for the new aircraft. Boeing does currently make the V-22 for the Marines and Air Force which could be used as a tilt rotor basis for a new medium lift system.

The JMR when it is ready for competition would be a major contract as it may be expected to last 30-40 years and see production quantities of several hundred. Also if it did enter U.S. service it might enjoy good Foreign Military Sales (FMS) similar to the Blackhawk which could mean billions in revenue for the ultimate provider of the aircraft.

Unfortunately in the current budget situation the program probably will not move fast and it might be several years for the new system to take shape. This means that the Army and other users will soldier on with the UH-60.

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