Lockheed Protest Delayed Future US Army Assault Aircraft Fielding: Official

The US Army is facing further delay in officially fielding its much-awaited Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).

Army Aviation Director Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen revealed during an event in Colorado that the deployment of Bell Textron’s winning V-280 Valor tiltrotor will be delayed by one year due to the disruption caused by Lockheed Martin’s protest.

The FLRAA was supposed to be handed over to the service by 2026 and ready for fielding by 2030.

Rugen said that while the official fielding was moved to 2031, it is “not our pacing decision point” as the service plans to begin limited user testing in 2027 in the hope of deploying the aircraft much earlier.

“We are working steadily on [the program] and I will say that the team came together this past quarter and did a tremendously detailed plan to look at every aspect of this fielding,” he told Defense News.

Program Turmoil

In December 2022, the US Army selected Bell Textron for the $1.3 billion FLRAA program.

The company promised a solution that would provide twice the reported speed and range of existing military helicopters.

However, the losing team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing challenged the decision, saying their Defiant X coaxial rotor proposal was more capable and affordable than the V-280.

In April 2023, or four months after lodging the protest, the US Government Accountability Office rejected Lockheed’s claim, as its proposal was deemed “technically unacceptable” because some requirements were not met.

With the contract remaining with Bell Textron, the company said it has now been working on the preliminary design of the FLRAA production version, which is crucial for the engineering and manufacturing development phase.

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