The U.S. Army's fleet of helicopters—the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, UH-60 Blackhawk medium lift helicopter, and CH-47 heavy lift helicopter—are all about 30 years old or older. The Joint Multi Role (JMR) program looks to replace all of these aging birds with a common design that will be faster, more agile, and carry more troops and cargo farther than ever before. Ultimately the program could cost up to $100 billion and replace anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 helicopters.
The video above, released ahead of the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference and trade show in October, showcases the main competing designs.
Let's start with the JMR Medium rotorcraft, meant to replace the UH-60 Blackhawk, with an armed variant that will replace the AH-64 Apache. The first contender you see in the video is the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor design that resembles a cross between the Blackhawk and the V-22 Osprey, with a split canted tail for good measure.
The second contender in the video is the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant. The Defiant uses two sets of coaxial rotors and a push propeller, technology proven in the .
JMR Medium is just a start, however. As you've likely guessed, there are plans for Light, Heavy, and Very Heavy versions of the new aircraft, too. The Army wants a lighter scout and observation machine, and on the other end of the spectrum, a much heavier version capable of replacing the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and even the C-130 Hercules.
Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing may be aerospace juggernauts, but these two aren't the only firms in the running. AVX aircraft has a coaxial rotor design like the Defiant, but also uses a pair of ducted fans for forward propulsion. The result (seen at the 1:27 mark and pictured above) looks like a large, squat beetle.
Finally, Karem Aircraft has proposed another tiltrotor and promises a "robust hover capability." Although a relatively new and small company, the company namesake and leader is the man behind the iconic Predator drone. This aircraft isn't in the video—and there isn't much concept imagery either—but you can here.
First flights for the Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing aircraft are due in 2017, with Karem following in .