Future rotorcraft pilots will need technology and training to operate in airspace filled with drones, the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Next conference heard in March.
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are expected to fill the low altitudes rotorcraft operate in by the time the US Army’s future vertical lift (FVL) platforms are deployed in the 2030s. Under FVL, the Army will replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Bell OH-58 Kiowa. With the highly congested airspace the FVL platforms will need technology to help pilots avoid UAS. How Armenia and Azerbaijan used many low altitude UAS for air to ground and air directed attacks in their recent conflict was given as a future war example.
“The proliferation of UAS is also a challenge out there and when we look at airspace below say a couple of hundred feet that's still going to be some pretty congested airspace,” Fort Rucker commanding general, Maj Gen David Francis, said during the conference’s Future Vertical Lift: Modernizing Army Aviation for Multi-Domain Operations session on March 17. The session also heard that the US Army is developing technology for UAS to avoid other aircraft and this is expected to help manage airspace congestion.
From April, the Army’s request for proposals for the FVL Black Hawk replacement, known as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), is planned to be published. Until now the Army has conducted a series of development programmes that has led to two competing prototypes. “We’ve down selected the two final competitors [for FLRAA). They’re going through the flight test and there will basically be a fly-off,” the Chief of Staff of the US Army, Gen James McConville told Key.Aero, when speaking to the George Washington School of Media and Public Affairs’ Defense Writers Group on March 11.