The first Future Vertical Lift aircraft to be fielded by the Army will come in the medium-lift category, where attack and cargo lift helicopters reside, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, the new Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander at Fort Rucker, Ala., said at the Aviation Association of America’s Mission Solutions Summit Friday.
Gayler said that since Congress required the Army to consider the FVL program as a joint program to include the Marine Corps and the Air Force, the need to be joint is driving the decision on which type of helicopter will be built first. The Army is still leading the effort.
The Army’s acquisition approach divides up the type of helicopters to be built as a family of helicopters to replace the service’s current fleet into five “capability sets.” The first set is the lightest variant while the fifth is the heaviest. Capability set 3 refers to the medium-lift variant.
Because the Marines and Air Force are more interested in a medium-lift, the Army has decided to focus on that weight class for the first helicopters that will be fielded starting in the early 2030s, according to Gayler.
“Since it’s a DoD joint program, we think the right answer is to go with [capability set 3] with other services, but we obviously will still be very interested in 1 or 2 as well,” Gayler said.
There has been talk about whether the first variant of FVL would be a light reconnaissance-type helicopter in order to fill a gap left open when the Army decided to retire the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The service is temporarily filling the gap by teaming AH-64 Apache Attack helicopters with Shadow unmanned aircraft systems.
But Gayler’s comments seem to put that debate to rest.