Rotary Wing Organization Could Shape Future Aircraft Programs

A unique organization created to ensure the next generation of military rotary wing aircraft is affordable and technologically superior could be a model for future defense acquisition programs, according to participants of a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum Wednesday. The Vertical Lift Consortium was created to bring the “unwashed opinions of industry” to the Defense Department customer from the very beginning of the program, said Nick Lappos, the consortium board chairman and a Sikorsky advanced technology advisor. It has 66 industry representatives who deal directly with representatives of the military acquisition, requirements, and warfighter communities. A primary focus is promoting the maximum level of commonality in aircraft components, and in training and maintenance processes, all of which can reduce program cost, he said. The consortium also helps produce the greatest capability at the lowest cost by allowing tradeoffs between competing requirements early in development, Lappos said. “Let’s talk about adding capabilities so tomorrow’s missions, now performed by ground units, can be done by aviation,” he added. James Kelly, a logistics specialist in the F-35 program office, emphasized how an early focus on reducing aircraft maintenance can cut life-cycle cost. Kelly wished the consortium “could have been around a decade ago for the F-35.”