Army picks firms to design future helicopter

The Army has tapped three firms to design and develop the service’s next-generation helicopter.

The service selected a joint venture between defense giants Sikorsky and Boeing, and another proposal by Bell Helicopter, to build a “technology demonstrator” for the first phase of the service’s Joint Multi-Role aircraft program.

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Neither helicopter will take flight until 2017, but the process will help the Army, and possibly other military branches, decide their requirements for replacing aging systems such as the Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.

The Army hopes to develop next-generation helicopters capable of flying farther than those in its existing fleet and with better fuel efficiency.

The eventual contract award could be worth billions of dollars.

The Sikorsky-Boeing entry, dubbed the Defiant, “will provide the best future vertical lift solution to the U.S. Army, and the flexibility of our design makes it suited for naval applications as well,” Sikorsky President Mick Maurer said in a press release. “This is a major leap forward.”

Texas-based Bell Helicopter was also selected by the Army to keep developing its new tilt-rotor concept, named the Bell V-280 Valor, according to a company official.

The Valor "can provide the military with unmatched range, speed and payload capabilities, and is designed with operational agility in mind to provide our soldiers transformational reach and revolutionary capability on the battlefield,” Keith Flail, the program’s director, said in a statement.

The three companies beat out a partnership between smaller aviation companies AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft.

AVX is still in negotiations with the Army to do “some scope of work,” said company spokesman Mike Cox.

“I don’t how big that work will be or how much it will be worth,” Cox told The Hill.