REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — At the end of May, Soldiers from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and Guardsmen representing Kansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Mississippi visited the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Soldiers met with aerospace engineers to learn about the Sikorsky-Boeing design for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) aircraft, the SB-1 Defiant.
Following a briefing on the history of the JMR-TD program and an overview of the SB-1 Defiant design capabilities, aircraft maintainers comprised of several aviation military occupational specialties rolled up their sleeves and got a “hands-on” look at the advanced vertical lift technologies.
In 2014 the Army selected the Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to continue the JMR-TD to flight demonstration, proving out transformational vertical lift capabilities while lowering risk for Future Vertical Lift (FVL) efforts. The Bell V-280 Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft that made its inaugural flight in December 2017. The Valor has since reached speeds in excess of 340 mph.
The Sikorsky-Boeing tech demonstrator SB-1 Defiant first took flight in March 2019 and leverages Sikorsky’s X2 technology with a rigid compound rotor and pusher prop. The Defiant has recently reached speeds of 265 mph. Both industry teams have made significant contributions to the tech demonstrator program and provided crucial flight data to the Army requirements developers for FVL platforms.
“It is always good to get emerging tech into the hands of our Soldiers early in the development process to garner their feedback now rather than after the fact,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Wilson, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence senior enlisted leader who observed the maintainer touchpoint.
Just a week later, the famed Rakkasans of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) deployed a rifle squad to the Sikorsky Development Flight Center to participate in another touchpoint. The Soldiers put on their kit and conducted ingress and egress procedures, providing valuable feedback on the SB-1 Defiant cabin design and configuration.
“They took all of our feedback and were super interested in what we had to say about the aircraft,” 1st Lt. Gabriel Marsan said. “I think these touchpoints are valuable, because it brings the Soldier’s input into the design phase.”
Soldier-centered design is a holistic change in how the Army generates capabilities. Army Futures Command leverages these Soldier touchpoints to transcend a historically industrial era approach to modernization. Feedback from the aviation maintainers and infantrymen gave the FVL Cross-Functional Team a better understanding of the requirements needed to transform lethality and survivability of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft.