New M240 Machine Gun suppressor gets rave reviews from Army maneuver in test
The Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious endeavor to develop jumping capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that offer greater range, speed, lethality and survivability, but also the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce costs and improve sustainability.
A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: US Navy)
The three Colonels who manage this complex effort believe they can better maximize commonality and contain costs than the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter tri-service program, which continues to grapple with technological challenges, cost growth, and ruptures Time plans.
The three officers appeared on December 9 at a forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Future Vertical Lift (ATCO) and indicated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.
The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling aerial lift and air assault missions currently being carried out by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future manager of the vertical lift program at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Lt. Col. David Phillips, SOCOM’s rotating wing requirements program manager.
Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the supply mission”, which includes medical evacuation and airstrike, or “the ability to attack light forces and their equipment”.
SOCOM’s aerial lift missions are typically the covert deployment and extraction of long-range special forces.
Marine Col. John Barranco, the division head of rotation requirements, expressed the need for troop transport and assault capabilities to replace the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the MV-22 Ospreys tilting protector, whose speed and range are already well above these two.
The U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during a training exercise. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps)
However, all three emphasized that the main focus of their ATCO efforts was on more speed, range, power and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They stressed that these advanced capabilities are needed to overcome the emerging anti-entry and denial of territory defensive capabilities used by “near-peer competitors” usually related to Russia and China.
Bentley said greater “range, speed, and power” would allow the army to conduct “strategic operations” from outside the combat theater and conduct tactical operations immediately upon arrival.
Higher speed and range in combination with additional protection systems improve survivability and “in combination with light sensor systems increases the lethality of army aviation,” he said.
Barranco noted that the Marines use the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter while their vertical helicopters, with the exception of the osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. With the “threat image, denial of access and denial of territory by a multitude of competitors in the vicinity of like-minded people,” he said, “there is a need across the common force to leverage technology to develop a new, more powerful aircraft. ”
Phillips said the enhanced functionality and open architecture systems were essential to “staying ahead of the world,” which was his term for the threat.
CSIS moderator Andrew Hunter urged officials how they could achieve the high commonality for their various missions, given the Joint Strike Fighter program record that was “challenged” and had “less in common than expected”.
The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the ATCO is located under the Army’s established program office. (Photo by Master Sgt.Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))
All three emphasized the time they spent confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of these requirements was “trading floor” that would allow any service to move from one skill to the next to improve another.
Barranco agreed, saying “each requirement is in a range of capabilities” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Navy also stressed that they all needed the high level of commonality to get what they need in a “fiscally constrained environment” that he predicted would not change.
Similarities would not only reduce procurement costs, but also improve sustainability by enabling joint delivery of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance.
Although the individual platforms can be different, Barranco cited the example of the new H-1 of the Marines, which, despite the significant difference in airframe and mission, have an 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems.
Similarities would also be easier with an open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to change some services, they said.
As program director, Bentley said the goal is to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin production at full speed in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft should be retired.