Future NATO rotorcraft capabilities to be discussed at Combat Helicopter 2017

As systems become more complex, consideration at the design stage becomes increasingly important. This requires an early identification of clear requirements, with options set out that enable forces to choose the optimal solution for their mission requirements.

NATO are currently undertaking a collaborative approach to their future rotorcraft capability platform requirements in conjunction with the US Future Vertical Lift Initiative. The aim is, by the mid-2020s when partner nations decide on their future platform requirements, to ensure there has been sufficient knowledge sharing and capability awareness to develop optimal configuration across all platforms and missions.

The future operating environment requires the development of a new vertical lift platform unencumbered by the restrictions of traditionally designed rotorcraft, meaning the new platforms will need to perform unfettered by the limited physical perspectives of existing designs.”

A recently approved NATO Industry Advisory Group in supporting next generation rotorcraft roadmap will examine configuration changes which will provide a step change in range, speed, endurance, and payload combined.

The US Future Vertical Lift Initiative meanwhile is well underway with the first prototypes already built for their future helicopter, Joint Multi Role Technical Demonstrator, which is a precursor before the US Army decides how to proceed with a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) (Medium) rotorcraft. The resulting helicopter programme will replace the Sikorsky UH-60 BLACK HAWK and Boeing AH-64 APACHE fleets from around the mid-2030s.

The two participants in the programme are Bell Helicopter with its V-280 VALOR third-generation tiltrotor and the Boeing/Sikorsky partnership with its SB>1 DEFIANT, based on Sikorsky’s X2 technology, coaxial main rotor design and rear pusher propeller.

NATO’s NIAG programme has concluded it is already apparent a single main rotor is not the future. However, the future could be co-axial, or compounded with pusher props or fans or propellers or advanced tilt rotors, whichever will deliver optimal configuration for future missions.

The programme intends to develop a versatile medium lift air vehicle in the FVL Family of Systems, capable of conducting assault, urban security, attack, maritime interdiction, medical evacuation, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, tactical resupply, direct action, non-combatant evacuation operation and combat search and rescue operations in support of army and joint forces.

The range of missions is wide since, although the programme is army-led, it is intended that platforms be offered for use by other services, to include the US Navy, USMC, USSOCOM, and even the US Coast Guard.

Dan Bailey, NATO Programme Director, and Chairman of the NATO Future Rotorcraft Capability Team, will be discussing at Combat Helicopter 2017 the role of the Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstration in establishing Future Vertical Lift and the effects on NATO next generation rotorcraft capability planning.

Decisions are still to be made on flight controls, aeromechanics, experimental aerodynamics and drive systems. This promises to be an inspiring session for industry and NATO partners to plan a roadmap delivering optimal solutions for future mission requirements.

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