News Column

Uncertain Future for Army's Future Helicopter

July 1, 2014


* The Pentagon's plan to acquire a new family of helicopters once again is up in the air. The military intends to continue to fund rotary-wing research and testing programs, officials said, but it cannot yet predict if or when it will have funds to buy new aircraft to replace the current fleet.

Like every other modernization program in the Defense Department, new helicopters have to compete for funding within a pool of shrinking dollars. Officials said the military services are having to trade off new weapon systems to fund their payroll.

"The budget environment is very difficult," said Jose M. Gonzalez, deputy director of land warfare, munitions and tactical warfare systems at the Defense Department.

The helicopter modernization effort known as "future vertical lift" got under way in 2009. The goal is to design and build a family of helicopters that would replace the current fleet of Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks by 2030. Analysts have estimated the program could be worth up to $100 billion.

Helicopter manufacturers have regarded the future vertical lift project, or FVL, as one of the few remaining opportunities in the military rotorcraft market. But the reality for contractors is that while FVL appears to have heavy backing from the Pentagon leadership, it does not have much money in the Defense Department's five-year spending plan.

Gonzalez said the military services are fighting to protect the research dollars in their budgets for the "joint multirole rotorcraft" technology demonstration, which is the first phase of FVL. READ MORE: http^/bitly/lnib8YCv

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Source: National Defense

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