A UH-60M Black Hawk descends on Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center's Hagler Field Sept. 9, 2017. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
Recognizing the U.S. Army’s need to upgrade or replace its ground vehicles and aircraft for future combat, U.S. House lawmakers will ask for plans to accelerate both the modernization of its armored brigade combat teams (ABCT) and the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) effort to develop a next-generation helicopter.
In its mark of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee applauded the U.S. Army’s efforts to incrementally upgrade its ground vehicles and helicopters to keep them technologically relevant. It also wants to weigh speeding modernization and fielding new and improved systems faster.
As with its ground vehicles, the U.S. Army has for years relied on incremental upgrades to rotorcraft to keep them one step ahead of enemy threats and to bridge capability gaps identified in ongoing wars.
Fiscal years 2019 and 2020 are considered by the Army and Congress to be pivotal for the success of the FVL program. A precursor Joint Multirole Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) program is ongoing while the Army also conducts an analysis of alternatives for FVL.
The subcommittee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing to the HASC by Dec. 3, on the outcome of the analysis of alternatives and on any other analysis utilized in deciding the Army’s priority of rotorcraft investment for FVL before the release of a request for proposals.
“The committee believes that as more dangerous threats emerge at an accelerated pace in the mid-term, unwavering investment in advanced future disruptive technologies like FVL will enable rotorcraft aviation to retain overmatch through significant capability improvements in reach, speed, protection, and lethality,” the subcommittee report said.
Greater rotorcraft technology investment is needed to “regain” the U.S. military’s overmatch in rotorcraft and vertical-lift innovation, which is “eroding,” the committee said. As the leading investor in rotorcraft research and development for the Defense Department, that burden falls to the Army.
To correct course, the committee encourages the Defense Department to explore opportunities to accelerate the FVL program to meet national security challenges and to “maximize full and open competition in doing so.”
Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee Mike Turner told members of the committee during his opening statement that years of deferred modernization have lead to a crisis in U.S. military readiness. Turner said the subcommittee conducted oversight on approximately $97.9 billion in program budget authority for fiscal year 2019.
The subcommittee’s request includes full funding for UH-60M Black Hawks and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Army National Guard, despite a recent report confirming that the U.S. Army has halted acceptance of deliveries of the AH-64E Apache variant from Boeing because of safety concerns.