The US military’s helicopter replacement master plan

The US military plans to reduce about 25 different helicopter types today into four models of a next-generation of vertical lift aircraft. We’ve known this for a few years already, but the full scope and vision for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) studies guiding the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) has eluded this blogger until now.

The strategy is revealed in a May 2011 briefing by Col Doug Rombaugh, programme executive officer of rotory wing aviation for Special Operations forces. Rombaugh’s slide breaks down performance goals for a four-member family of JMR types:

Untitled.pngIf these numbers hold, the US military anticipates transitioning to a vastly larger fleet compared to the helicopters operating today. For example, the JMR-Medium is listed with a combined internal and external payload weight of 16,000-40,000lb. The upper limit of that range exceeds the UH-60M’s maximum take-off weight by 18,000lb! The ultra category is also interesting. It asks for a combined payload weight between 80,000 to 144,000lb — for a vertical lift aircraft!

Rombaugh also provides the timeline envisioned to launch the migration from today’s helicopters to the JMR family, and it starts almost immediately for the JMR-Medium and very soon for the JMR-Ultra. Not far behind is a new-start for a JMR-Light. Further out is the launch of a JMR-Heavy to replace the CH-47 Chinook. This slide is also new information.

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4 Responses to The US military’s helicopter replacement master plan

  1. Peter 4 August, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I’m not sure that the US Army will want machines capable of combining internal and external payloads, as your article seems to suggest. Isn’t it more usual to carry one or the other, or at least most of the weight in one way and only a small proportion of the payload in the other? That would make the size and complexity of each helicopter much more technologically feasible and affordable.

  2. Rocketist 4 August, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Are you sure the internal and external payloads are to be understood as on top of each other? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. E.g. for the medium class, 24 equipped soldiers might weigh around 6k lbs, why design the thing for carrying 40k? It looks to me rather like these would be alternatives – which places the four models more neatly into existing categories. Compared to the UH-60 which will take 4 metric tons maximum PL, say 8800lbs, or the CH-47 which will take almost 28k lbs as far as I know, these would represent the “middle” and “heavy” class quite nicely. Of course, the “ultra” would still be somewhere between the Mi-26 and Mi-12, an impressive beast!

  3. Moose 5 August, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I do not think the int/ext loads are to be taken together, seems a bit unrealistic.

    Sikorsky seems well-suited to the light and medium classes with X2, especially after that video showing them already scoping a Blackhawk-replacement X2. Heavy and Ultra could get very interesting.

  4. John 12 August, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    As a helo driver (and one who’s simplified his slides for his superiors), I agree with the previous commenters – the weights are either/or, not both. They are meant to indicate a max and show that in addition to carrying troops & equipment, it also has the flexibility/ability to carry an external load that is a significant percentage of its max gross weight.

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