The U.S. Army is talking a lot these days about speeding up the way it buys weapons, but you’d never know that to look at its plan for modernizing combat helicopters. All three of the core rotorcraft operated by Army Aviation joined the force during the Cold War, and despite periodic updates they are far from being the state of the art in rotorcraft design. If you want to see state of the art, check out the next-gen rotorcraft that Sikorsky-Boeing and Bell-Textron teams have developed as precursors to the Future Vertical Lift program. Both of them far exceed the capabilities of current helicopters in speed, range, payload and other performance measures. But if the Army sticks with its current plan for Future Vertical Lift, neither will reach the force until after 2030. That isn’t fast. In fact, it may set a new land speed record for slowness. America’s soldiers might end up paying for this delay with their lives. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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