Military looks for craft to replace helicopters

The Pentagon is committed to early design work on a new aircraft that will replace thousands of helicopters now used by the U.S. military, its first "clean sheet design" program in years, the Army official heading the effort said on Friday.

Dan Bailey, a former Apache helicopter pilot who heads the "future vertical lift" program and the research effort under way to explore possible approaches, said there was no push to reduce funding for the program, despite pressure on nearly every other arms program in the Pentagon's portfolio.

Ultimately, the program will replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp and Boeing Co AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.

He said the key to success was starting early and working closely with industry to understand what technology solutions were possible, rather than pre-determining the outcome.

The Army is focused heavily on getting affordable aircraft that will be cheaper and easier to maintain than current helicopters, he said.

The program also works closely with the "Vertical Lift Consortium," an industry group that includes a broad array of suppliers involved in the sector. Bailey said members of the group's executive board participate in high-level meetings on the program at the Pentagon, along with senior officers.
They are trying to avoid the screw ups that have plagued the F-35 program  which started with a wish list rather than exploring what is possible given current technology.  What they need to do is build something with plug and play capability which would be easy to upgrade with off the shelf technology rather than having to reinvent each new application.


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