NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Army views its common aviation cockpit concept as an architecture and backbone that allows a cockpit to evolve over time as opposed to simply components, according to a key official.

“We want to make sure the backbone not only allows the evolution of those vehicles over time but the evolution of the subcomponent,” Dan Bailey, Army program director for Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) and Future Vertical Lift (FVL), told an audience here Tuesday at the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) conference. 

Artist's rendering of a potential Boeing-Sikorsky future vertical lift platform.
Artist’s rendering of a potential Boeing-Sikorsky future vertical lift platform.

Bailey said the Army’s JMR TD team is looking at acquistion strategies that would allow such open architecture (OA) approach to future cockpits. Maybe one requirment, he said, is to put in a new architecture in a couple of years. Or maybe there’s not an OA characteristic that lasts forever, Bailey said.

Though the common cockpit effort has been years in development, Bailey said that doesn’t mean that time has been wasted. The Army, he said, is going through the same ongoing process that allowed Apple‘s [AAPL] successful iPhone to become what it is today.

“Over time, you learn, and that’s the process we’re going through,” Bailey said. “We’re learning and we’re understanding.”

The Army also views its common cockpit concept as focused on standard software interfaces. Army Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Aviation Brig. Gen. Robert Marion said here Tuesday such an approach makes defining interfaces and standards key.

“If you weren’t the original design and development and producer of a cockpit, we can still leverage your capability on a platform in the future,” Marion said.

Marion said digitization of the cockpit is an important part of common cockpit evolution. As the Army bought CH-47 Chinooks in the 1960s, UH-60 Black Hawks in the ’70s and AH-64 Apaches in the ’80s, he said, the service got to to digitization in each of those platforms at different points in time.

Marion said the UH-60V Black Hawk, as the Army’s last group of non-digitized aircraft in this enterprise, is the service’s opportunity to try to build standard interfaces. This, he said, will allow the Army to move forward with a cockpit design that it could leverage off multiple competitors in the future.

The FVL program is for the Army’s next generation of helicopters while JMR TD is a science and technology (S&T) demonstration intended to mitigate risk for the FVL development program through the testing of advanced technologies and efficient configurations, according to the Army. The service, last August, selected Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT] and a Sikorsky [UTX]-Boeing [BA] team for the technology and flight demonstration phase of the envisioned JMR helicopter.

Sikorsky and Boeing are developing the SB>1 Defiant, a medium-lift helicopter and derivative of Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design. Honeywell [HON] said Tuesday it joined the Sikorsky-Boeing team to develop and build the SB>1 Defiant, providing its current and next-generation Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) to the team’s flying demonstrator. Honeywell will also provide its T-55 engine, auxiliary power unit generator, air turbine starter and start control valve, according to a company statement.

Bell is developing the V-280 tilt-rotor aircraft for FVL (Defense Daily, Aug. 12).