US Army considers Texas start-up’s design for Black Hawk, Apache replacement

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A Texas-based start-up will challenge three rotorcraft industry giants for a possible US Army contract to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache with a single, high-speed aircraft.

In late September, the US Army awarded the last of four study contracts for the joint multi-role (JMR) programme to AVX, a two-year-old company launched by former Bell Helicopter engineers.

In June, the army selected separate bids from Bell Boeing, Boeing and Sikorsky to participate in the same study. Over the next 18 months, the four companies will deliver a series of reports on design and cost options for each of their concepts. The army plans to select two bidders in fiscal year 2014 to build prototypes that demonstrate the performance of their aircraft designs.

AVX is proposing a new airframe with a speed of around 200kt (370km/h) that is powered by an 18.3m-diameter (60ft-diameter) coaxial rotor for vertical lift, and two ducted fans for horizontal thrust.

 

© AVX

It is similar in concept to a standing proposal to the army by AVX to upgrade the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with a coaxial-rotor, ducted-fan propulsion system. AVX is currently modifying a Bell 206 Jet Ranger with the new propulsion system. It has also unveiled concepts for applying the coaxial-rotor, ducted-fan configuration to the civil market with the AVX 815 and 825.

For the JMR requirement, the army wants an aircraft with a minimum speed of 170kt that can carry a 2,720kg (6,000lb) internal load.

AVX's concept would require two engines generating 4,000shp (2,984kW) each, said Troy Gaffey, president and chief engineer. The proposal depends on the development of the 3,000shp advanced affordable turbine engine (AATE), Gaffey said. He added that the AATE, which is in competition between General Electric and a Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney team, should be scalable to 4,000shp.