The U.S. Army is currently running two separate competitions to develop next-generation armed reconnaissance and assault helicopters. The future of Army Aviation depends on both competitions producing world-class rotorcraft that can be fielded expeditiously. The Army’s Cold War recon helicopters, also known as scouts, had grown so decrepit that the service decided to retire them even though it lacked a replacement. Finding that replacement is now Army Aviation’s top modernization priority. As for the assault rotorcraft, the Army feels it must have a successor to Black Hawk that is twice as fast and flies twice as far, otherwise it will be hobbled in coping with military moves by Russia and China. The overall modernization effort, known as Future Vertical Lift, seems to be progressing nicely, but the next two years will be decisive in selecting winning prototypes that can begin fielding by the end of the decade. Doing so is vital to the Army’s success in future fights. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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