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DSEI 2021: NATO admits Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability could be FVL solution

14th September 2021 - 16:13 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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Bell's V-280 tiltrotor is one of two aircraft under consideration for FLRAA. (Photo: Bell)

NATO's Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) effort might not lead to a common medium-class helicopter being made by a European manufacturer.

A NATO official has revealed to Shephard that the alliance’s Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) programme could result in a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft eventually being selected.

Despite the US only holding NGRC observer status, five European partner nations involved in the effort have already agreed to open a communications channel with FVL officials, according to the NATO source.

The official noted that this channel exists to avoid working in stovepipes, and to ensure that whatever is developed is interoperable from both ends.

US representatives have also been part of all NGRC meetings to date.

‘[A] decision on the preferred solution is obviously open and I would not be surprised if American industry made a bid for the project, FVL is a potential outcome,’ the official added.

NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) will host the first NGRC industry day at its Capellen, Luxembourg headquarters ‘next week’, when rotary-wing manufacturers and suppliers are set to discuss digital backbone issues and ‘building blocks’ of new helicopter designs.

‘As soon as there's industry data, we will then kick off the concept phase, where we then look at potential solutions that are on the table and assess them,’ the NATO official confirmed. ‘Hopefully that will lead to a recommended solution, which would lead to a development phase.’

NGRC is intended to produce a common medium-class helicopter for NATO allies.

Production of the new aircraft has also been scheduled for 2035-2040 to coincide with the out of service date of Europe’s major rotary-wing fleets, including the NHIndustries NH90.  

That timeline aligns well with the US Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) programme involving Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor and the SB>1 Defiant X co-axial design, which is expected to see a winner declared in FY2022 and a First Unit Equipment (FUE) milestone met by FY2030.

There are no limits set on additional NATO nations joining NGRC but entry depends on approval from existing members.

Two other interested parties outside of France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the UK are considering signing on and could do so when an MoU is signed in Q1 or Q2 2022.

This article was amended on 15 September to include the reason for the FVL-European communications channel.

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