WASHINGTON — The Army is just weeks from revealing its choice for a future long-range assault aircraft, according to the service’s acquisition chief.
The service aims to go public with the winner of the FLRAA competition in October or November, Doug Bush told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
But, he noted, the announcement is “conditions-based. There’s a process that the source selection board goes through to not just make the source selection but then, importantly, to kind of audit themselves and have others audit them to make sure it was done the right way before we announce it.”
“It does take a while,” he added, “but we want to make absolutely sure that we do this the right way and that we got what’s best for the Army.”
Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team are competing for the Army’s FLRAA program. The two aircraft in the mix differ greatly; Bell’s V280 Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, and Sikorsky and Boeing’s Defiant X features coaxial rotor blades.
“This is our largest and most complex competitive procurement we have executed in the Army in the ... history of Army aviation,” Maj. Gen. Robert Barrie, Army aviation program executive officer, told Defense News. “That system is going to be with us a long time; it goes without saying that we want to make sure everything is done correctly and in a disciplined manner.”
The Army was initially expected to make a decision around June, but that slipped to September. The award was then again delayed.
“Source selection boards are event-driven activities,” Barrie said. “We try and put estimated times when they’re going to complete, but the reality is they’re complete when the various sub-portions of the schedule are completed, and we’re working through it in a very deliberate but also prudent speed.”
The award will be one of the Army’s largest helicopter procurement decisions since the 1980s.
Both FLRAA demonstrator aircraft spent several years logging test flights. They first flew in a joint multirole technology demonstration followed by two phases of a competitive development and risk-reduction effort.
FLRAA prototypes from the competition winner are due to the service by 2025. FLRAA is expected to enter the fleet in 2030, around the same time as the Army’s future attack reconnaissance aircraft is planned for fielding.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.