The US Army’s requirement for a next-generation armed scout platform to replace the acclaimed Bell OH-58 Kiowa has been around since the Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) programme of the 1980s.
Now, as the remaining Kiowas are being scrapped, stored or sold without a dedicated, manned replacement, the army could decide this year whether to launch another light attack/reconnaissance rotorcraft development effort under the banner of Future Vertical Lift (FVL).
The assumed plan has been that the army would move first on “FVL Medium” as a natural follow-on to the 13,600kg (30,000lb)-class technology demonstrator showdown between the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant and Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor prototypes.
But a “Capability Set 1” request for information (RFI) released last month and seeking rotorcraft options for the “light attack/reconnaissance role”, has long-time FVL players, particularly Sikorsky, pushing rotorcraft like the S-97 Raider, first flown in May. Bell, Boeing, AVX, Karem and MD Helicopters have also shown interest, but have not shown their hands.