REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Due to the aging of North Atlantic Treaty Organization's collective fleets of rotorcraft, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is leading a team of experts to identify capabilities and technologies needed in future NATO aircraft.

During a NATO Science & Technology Organization Applied Vehicle Technology Panel Specialist meeting in Prague, Czech Republic in October 2015, members met to identify common capabilities needs with a harmonized approach to defining requirements and certification. The group concluded there was a need for a NATO-wide activity to develop a strategy for future rotorcraft in NATO.

AMRDEC's chief engineer for Aviation Development, Layne Merritt proposed a team of experts within the Joint Capability Group -- Vertical Lift, NATO Army Armaments Group, eventually titled "Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability Team of Experts." Members include JCG-VL, Joint Air Power Competency Center, Allied Command Transformation, STO and NATO Industrial Advisory Group.

This group was announced at the American Helicopter Society International's 73rd Annual Forum & Technology Display in Fort Worth, Texas May 9-11. AHS Forum is a technical event on vertical flight technology. The three-day meeting included 250 technical papers on every discipline from acoustics to unmanned systems, along with workshops, invited presentations and discussions by nearly 50 leaders in industry and government.

The mission of the NGRC TOE is to identify and assess current and evolving applicable rotorcraft technologies, force structure implications, force capabilities, together with operational concepts leading to the development of an integrated NGRC. An important element of the assessment is the projection of industrial capability and applied technologies in the time period of interest.

"The idea is to baseline across the various NATO organizations before each moves forward with their normal business," Merritt said.

The TOE will meet consistently from 2016 until 2018. The supporting NIAG Study Group runs May 2017 through June 2018 and will seek the collective industry views on the following topics: Force Capability, Force Structure, Technologies, Operational Concepts and Development & Acquisition Strategies.

The scope of this NIAG study is to focus on the technologies that increase flight performance and mission effectiveness through platform propulsion, rotor design, lift, range, velocity, all weather operations, maintainability, availability and reliability. Other areas of interest are the force structure required to operate and maintain the next generation rotorcraft, as well as the identification of system integration anticipated and recommended methods to reduce complexity and risk.

"Ultimately this effort is to assess and roadmap the NATO vertical lift fleet capabilities required for future operations and to maintain interoperability. This assessment will set the stage for nations to potentially partner on a NATO Staff Target/Requirement in order to move forward in a development effort," said Dan Bailey, NGRC TOE chairman.

The study findings and recommendations will enable NATO and nations to understand and evaluate future rotorcraft capabilities and modernization options, potentially under NATO's Smart Defense Initiative.

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U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.