Army officials recently revealed their prospective early timeline for getting into the air with the new Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), shooting for establishing program of record by next year, even if the aircraft might not be ready for fielding by around 2030.
“We’re looking at kicking off this program in a disciplined manner,” the Program Executive Officer for Aviation, Maj. Gen. Robert Barrie, told reporters on Thursday at the annual AAAA conference in Nashville, Tenn. While not as glamorous as the initial selection process, Barrie said the next year-plus will be the “bread and butter” of crafting a successful program, now that the Government Accountability Office has upheld the Army’s choice of the Bell-Textron V-280 Valor tilt-rotor.
The near-term process includes an Army Requirements Oversight Council meeting in July to validate and approve a capability development document that will specify the FLRAA’s requirements, before senior Pentagon officials hold a Joint Requirements Oversight Council meeting later this year.
If all goes as planned, Barrie said service leaders will decide around the April-June 2024 timeframe if they are ready to transition FLRAA into a program of record when they hold a milestone B review that will help solidify the acquisition strategy and include the number of aircraft the service wants to buy.
“Until we are a program of record, we’re going to continue to do things in an event-based way,” Barrie added. “We’re going to continue to work with our industry partner to make sure we have a fair understanding of what we’re doing. That’s the plan.”
Although this process involves a lot of paperwork and sign off, the two-star general said firming up the requirements will change “very little” in terms of Bell’s winning prototype bid. But as the service works through the requirements process, that doesn’t mean the company is sitting idle.
Keith Flail, Bell’s executive vice president for military business, told Breaking Defense today that the company and Army are now working on the integrated baseline review and getting ready for the milestone B review together.
“The next thing, as we move towards milestone B, is a full weapon system preliminary design review that will be required to be completed,” Flail said, adding that that work will be fed into the larger preliminary design review.
As the service and Bell work through paperwork and planning for establishing a formal FLRAA program, the results will trickle down to other aircraft programs including the Black Hawk. Last week, Doug Bush, the service’s head of acquisition, told members of the House Armed Services subcommittee that this process will ultimately help the Army decide what the mix of Black Hawk and FLRAA will be and what steps the service needs to take to ensure the former can be used for decades to come.
Published by Breaking Defense on 28 April 2023.