US Army plans to award Future Transport Rotorcraft (FTR) study contracts in June have been scrapped because of a funding shortfall. Technical and operational concept determination studies will be delayed for at least a year.

FTR could be a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, helicopter or tiltrotor. It will replace US Army Boeing CH-47 Chinooks and possibly US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53s and US Navy Grumman C-2 carrier-capable transports.

Once funding is secured, up to three 24-month study contracts will be awarded. Contractors will be required to recommend configuration type, while also considering commercial and international variants. The powerplant is expected to emerge from the Joint Turbine Advanced Gas Generator programme. The studies are to be followed by a 36-month risk reduction programme, with engineering and manufacturing development beginning in 2010. Initial fielding would be eight years later.

Bell responded to the US Army request as it believes a C-130-size four-tiltrotor aircraft can meet the FTR requirement. The company-funded Quad Tiltrotor (QTR) would use Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey components to reduce development costs. They would be mated to an enlarged fuselage and new landing gear, wings and flight control system (Flight International, 2-8 June, 1999).

Bell's Dick Spivey says watertunnel testing of a 1/48th scale QTR aided visualisation of the complex flows around the tandem wings and four rotors, and showed enough promise for Bell to approach NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for funding to build windtunnel models.

DARPA is keen to support the research, but lacks funding, says Spivey. NASA could fund QTR through the Runway Independent Transport Aircraft programme.

DARPA-funded or FTR-related work could lead to a military advanced concept technology demonstration. Components would be taken from the V-22 production line to fabricate two QTR prototypes that could fly in 2005. Limited production could follow several years after, leading to initial fielding "as early as the end of this decade", Spivey believes.

Source: Flight International