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US Army firms up requirements for future long-Range assault aircraft ahead of competition

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council’s gauntlet and received preliminary approval of its abbreviated capabilities development document, bringing the aircraft a step closer to a competitive procurement, according to the head of the service’s future vertical lift efforts.

The service is on a tight timeline to field a brand-new, long-range assault aircraft by 2030.

“The AROC went well,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen told Defense News in an Oct. 6 interview. “The aviation enterprise continues to impress me, just our ability to drive on these tough administrative and requirements tasks and get them done on time and do what we said we were going to do.”

At the time of the interview, not all of the paperwork was signed and the ink wasn’t dry. However, Rugen said, “it was probably one of the best AROCs I have attended in my career.”

He was hesitant to go into too much detail regarding the contents of the draft request for proposals — expected before the end of the year — but said: “We really are focused on our air assault mission configuration” and what that means for the number of troops that would need to be aboard and what requirements are needed to conduct that mission in darkness. Otherwise, the FLRAA program won’t have “a ton of mandatory attributes” in order to “leave a lot of space for innovation as long as we achieve that air assault mission configuration.”

The Army envisions FLRAA as less of an aircraft for the aerial movement of troops and more for complementing the air assault mission, according to Rugen.

While the Army wants a squad and enablers in the back of the aircraft, “when you think about an air assault mission, it’s far more integrated,” he said..

“And when it comes to joint, when it comes to fires, when it comes to the tactical objective, the air movement — which is a bit more administrative in nature and not as intense on the combat scale — when we talk about air assault, we want transformational reach,” he added, “that ability to exploit any penetration and disintegration that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ecosystem, along with our joint partners has created.”

The Army wants the speed, range and endurance at range, which “we’ve really honed in over a year on the trades with that,” Rugen said.

“We are bounded also by what is achievable and affordable, and those inputs have come in and, again, really pleased with that balance between what we do on the requirements side and what the [program executive office] is doing in the competitive demonstration and risk-reduction phase on their side of the house to really get after those technologies.”

The Army has spent the good part of the last decade using a technology demonstration program to inform its requirements for FLRAA. Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team have each designed, built and flown technology demonstrators and are now both part of

US Army solidifies requirements to counter small drones

WASHINGTON — Pentagon leaders approved in late September a set of requirements to help counter small drones, laying a path for how industry can develop technology to plug into a single command-and-control system, according to the general in charge of the effort.

The defense secretary delegated the Army in November 2019 to lead the effort to take a petting zoo of counter-small unmanned aircraft systems, or C-sUAS, many of which were rooted in urgent needs from Middle East conflicts, and to consolidate capability into a select group of interim systems. Army Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, who is leading the effort through the Joint C-sUAS Office, spoke to Defense News on Oct. 2 ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.

That part of his project would be followed by the development and fielding of a long-term system.

The office has already taken 40-plus systems and whittled the selection down to three systems-of-systems approaches — one from each service — for fixed and semi-fixed sites. The office also settled on the Light-Mobile Air Defense Integrated System from the Marine Corps as a mounted or mobile system; Bal Chatri, Dronebuster and Smart Shooter for dismounted, hand-held systems; and one command-and-control system.

The C2 system is called Forward Area Air Defense C2 and is sponsored by the Army, but it does include interoperable systems from the Air Force and the Marine Corps.

The threat is changing, according to Gainey, as the use of signals evolves. What this means is the long-term solution must bring in new technology and easily swap out old capabilities.

“It’s how rapidly we can integrate it, and by writing those requirements standards, it’s a big win for us because now if you’re building to that, then we allow industry to compete in this process by building component technology that can integrate into this open architecture,” Gainey said.

The Army will host a virtual industry day at the end of the month to share its requirements.

While Gainey was careful to avoid divulging classified requirements, he said the initial C-sUAS systems focused on Group 1 drones (such as Raven and Wasp) and Group 2 drones (such as ScanEagle). The program will also focus on Group 3 drones (such as Shadow), he added.

“We have a capability out there that can get after Group 3,” Gainey said, “but we know we need more focus in this area.”

Overcoming the threat of drone swarms will also receive increased attention, he added.

The plan is to test available capabilities at common ranges twice a year, he explained.

Meanwhile, industry is conducting several demonstrations a year, “so we have a good pulse of what technology they’re working on,” Gainey said. “What our efforts are doing is trying to help focus them in.”

Because the Joint C-sUAS Office was established in the middle of a budget cycle, Gainey said, the Army is working through the funding aspects; not just to keep interim systems funded, but to ensure there’s enough to develop