Modernization is top of mind for all military services to prepare their forces for future battles. As initiatives and programs arise, investment is required for future innovation and to ensure that we can win the battles we fight. According to the Army, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) is one such investment that is required to build a fleet of next generation air vehicles to ensure U.S. dominance throughout the 21st century and beyond.
In service to this effort, the U.S. Army plans to field the product of its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program by FY 2030. With the FY20 budget requests out, the Army is also investing in a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft in addition to funding for new unmanned aircraft and development of technology infrastructure for mission systems and weapons for future fleets.
“I think when you look at our current fleet investment, when you look at the risk calculus, I think we’re ready to jump,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization, told Defense News. “I know we’re ready to jump to future capability.”
Another organization that is ready to jump in and help the Army with their modernization efforts is Collins Aerospace. We sat down with Fred Manzo, Collins Aerospace’s director of Army programs and government operations to ask him about the company’s current efforts and more broadly, shed light on how he thinks these projects will develop in the years to come:
TMB Editors: The Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization program is a top priority for Collins Aerospace. Explain how Collins is uniquely positioned to support current efforts.
Fred Manzo: Collins is driving technology and innovation to meet the requirements of Future Vertical Lift. Collins is uniquely positioned because we are developing technology on the enduring Army aircraft fleet and maturing technology to FVL requirements. We offer lightweight composite aerostructure components, drive systems, sensors, displays, digital open systems, cyber-hardened architectures, and applications for solving the Army’s toughest problems. We are also positioned to support the Army through all OEMs by reducing cost, weight, and drag.
TMB Editors: Why is now the time to invest for future innovation and how do you see this innovation evolving?
Manzo: Collins is able to combine the strengths of our legacy companies and offer the scale and technical resources to redefine rotorcraft. We are investing now in the warfighter capabilities required to fight in the future multi-domain battle fight. We have aligned investments with the Army’s modernization priorities and are investing to solve complex problems. It’s important to invest now to evolve existing fleet technologies to future FVL requirements.
TMB Editors: Are there any specific capabilities that you think will be “must-haves” in these next generation aircraft?
Manzo: The next generation aircraft will be more electric, more digital, more intelligent and more autonomous. Must-have technologies will need to align with these foundational principals. Open-system architectures that allow for rapid upgrades are essential to FVL.
TMB Editors: How can the Army and other services who are seeking to modernize their fleet ensure interoperability with other systems?
Manzo: The services can seek to ensure interoperability by pursuing multi-service acquisition efforts such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA). Early design efforts that are multi-service, to include special operations, will mitigate risk that a program will need to be modified down the road.