US Army triggers competition for future long-range assault aircraft

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Lockheed Martin and Boeing unveiled their offering to the U.S. Army's future long-range assault aircraft competition on Jan. 25, 2021, calling it Defiant X. (Artist rendering courtesy of Lockheed Martin and Boeing)​


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has launched its future long-range assault aircraft competition, quietly releasing a request for proposals limited to two industry teams. The service has also homed in on a schedule to deliver FLRAA prototypes after debating two different options to stay on schedule.

The service weighed the option of pursuing both prototype builds for the airframe and the weapons systems at the same time, or on slightly separate schedules, which would have meant the difference between delivering full prototypes to the Army by the spring or the summer of 2025.

The Army will choose a winner — after a faceoff between Textron’s Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team — in the third quarter of fiscal 2022. It appears the service is requiring prototype delivery to start in the third quarter of FY25 and wrap up a year later, according to a review of FY22 budget documents.

The FY21 budget justification documents had FLRAA prototype deliveries scheduled for the second quarter of FY25.

It is unclear whether two separate preliminary design reviews will occur for the airframe and the weapons systems, or if they will be done concurrently. The Army scheduled a preliminary and detailed design review to take place from the third quarter of FY22 to the second quarter of FY24, but that timeline is not broken down further in the FY22 budget documents.

The FY21 documents specifically lay out the preliminary design review, which was expected to begin in the second quarter of FY22 and wrap up in the fourth quarter of FY23. A detailed design review would begin directly following and run until the first quarter of FY25.

Based on the changes, it appears the Army will wrap up all its design phases nearly a year earlier.

But the schedule still evens out over time: Flight testing is now planned to begin in the third quarter of 2025, and wrap up in the fourth quarter of FY29, which is consistent in both FY21 and FY22 justification books.

 
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