Bell, Sikorsky and Boeing get most of the headlines when it comes to the US Army’s search for a new set of rotorcraft under the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme, but component makers are watching closely and investing heavily to win part of what is set to be a multi-billion dollar programme.
Thus, it was a significant victory for Collins Aerospace when the US Army selected it as one of three companies to serve as a missions systems integrator for its Joint Multi Role Mission Systems Architecture Demonstration programme, the service’s exploration of potential systems for FVL. Its selection was announced 15 April.
Collins Aerospace says it will design and demonstrate a cyber-hardened mission system architecture, as well as model-based systems engineering tools and processes needed to develop and integrate the avionics on the US Army’s next generation of aircraft. The demonstration programme runs until December 2020 and will help inform the service’s eventual requirements for FVL.
Collins Aerospace has flight control computers on legacy US Army aircraft such as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache. So, it is vital for the firm to get its technology onto the US Army’s next generation of aircraft, such as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).
“[FVL] is a strategic platform. So, it’s a must-win,” says Fred Manzo, Collins Aerospace’s director of Army programmes and government operations. “We are investing a lot of our [independent research and development].”
The company is also working closely with Joint Multi-Role (JMR) demonstrator aircraft developers and has products on the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant compound helicopter as well as the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor, though Manzo declines to name the specific technology being used.
One product in particular Collins is eager to tout for FVL is its new flight control computer, called Vehicle Management Computer, which has 20 times more processing power than its existing system. The company says the computer’s power and open architecture will enable fly-by-wire control, as well as support autonomy and unmanned operations.