The US Army has picked five concept vehicles to start exploring the feasibility of developing a vertical take-off and landing rotorcraft that can transport a roughly 20t vehicle about 250nm (460km).

The five contract awards, totalling $30 million, support studies of vehicles in three speed ranges and include at least one design offered by a non-traditional rotorcraft supplier.

The army is leading a joint effort to develop a Joint Heavy Lift rotorcraft to support its Future Combat Systems and the US Navy’s sea-basing strategy.

Sikorsky was selected to study a coaxial rotor-powered vehicle called the X2 Technology Crane, providing 165kt (305km/h) speed.

Sikorsky also won a contract for an advancing-blade compound concept called the X2 Technology High Speed Lifter, capable of 245kt.

Boeing’s award will fund studies of an advanced tandem-rotor helicopter concept perhaps capable of 165kt.

The army awarded a contract to explore a Quad Tiltrotor with 275kt speed to the Bell-Boeing V-22 joint venture. The award suggests that Boeing plans to team with Bell Helicopter on the project, formerly pursued exclusively by Bell.

Finally, the army also awarded a study contract to Abe Karem-owned Frontier Aircraft for a 310kt, optimum-speed tiltrotor concept. Frontier Aircraft was formed after Karem sold Frontier Systems to Boeing.

Boeing acquired the rights to Karem’s optimum-speed rotor technology used for unmanned aircraft, such as the A-160 Hummingbird. But Karem is free to apply the concept to manned vehicles.

Source: Flight International