DUGWAY, Utah — The Army is exploring the potential for further Future Vertical Lift (FVL) information sharing agreements with international partners, with several countries expressing interest in growing cooperation on aviation modernization efforts following participation at the service’s recent EDGE 22 experiment.
After inviting seven countries to participate in the FVL-led EDGE22 event at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, confirmed there is interest in additional agreements similar to the recent deal with the U.K., while noting there were no new deals with partners to announce yet.
“There is [interest]. Of course, there’s a process by which that occurs and within [the Army assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology’s office] they’re working that coordination. And as we go forward we’re always open to that, but we’ll do it in accordance with our process,” Barrie told reporters during an EDGE22 media visit last week here in Dugway. “We’ll have some more info for you, perhaps in the near term. But we will share it with everyone when it becomes readily shareable.”
In February, the Army signed an FVL Cooperative Program Feasibility Assessment project arrangement with the British Army, agreeing to share information to advance future rotorcraft development and assess collaboration opportunities related to programs such as the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) (Defense Daily, Feb. 14).
The Army’s FVL Cross Functional Team (CFT) clarified at the time that the new agreement does not have terms related to the U.K.’s potential procurement of platforms in development, but rather sets the path for interoperability and development cooperation as Britain assesses its future helicopter path.
Along with bringing in seven international partners, to include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the U.K, EDGE22 focused on advancing the potential of the aerial tier network and emerging technologies for the future battlefield with new achievements for speed, range and networking capacity, such as launching the largest “wolf pack” swarm of new Air-Launched Effects (ALE) drones to date (Defense Daily, May 16).
Germany, Italy and Netherlands participated in the experiment, bringing soldiers and new command and control capabilities and tactical communication kits, while the remaining countries were observers.
“Part of this is forming our teams, understanding our gaps and identifying those gaps with data collection. So when it came to our coalition partners, we did see the Dutch bring a mission command capability and then fight that with maneuver elements from Italy and Germany. And, again, as we went through our 19 days of learning, what we saw there was what we need to work on in the future,” Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the FVL CFT, told reporters.
Military officials from Italy, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands spoke to reporters at EDGE22, expressing the importance of the U.S. Army bringing in coalition partners early into the FVL development process to ensure interoperability and collaboration on future concepts.
“I think many of us are being brought in at a point where it’s really, really significant that the allies have an input. It’s a generationally-significant change in how we warfight in this particular domain and the timing is great from a national point of view in terms of when we’re looking at recapitalizing our fleet,” Brig. Gen. Chris McKenna, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s director general of Air and Space Force development, told reporters. “Doing something like this at the earlier possible stages guarantees the alignment in lethality and overmatch in the future. So it’s massive, from my point of view.”
McKenna declined to speak directly on the potential for an FVL agreement similar to the U.K.’s deal, while citing EDGE22 as an opportunity to build on “interchangeability” for modernization priorities and the ability to seamlessly plug into partners’ networks to exchange information rapidly.
“It’s our first foray into this for observing but I think we see a scale-up coming. This is fantastic,” McKenna told reporters. “We’re not going to make policy in public but I think this is the experience that allows you to go back to your country and have a very mature discussion about the merits of that.”
Air Commodore Robert Adang, commander of the Netherlands Defense Helicopter Command, said his country is interested in exploring FVL-related partnerships, and cited EDGE22 as demonstrating an “evolution in the way military operations are conducted.”
“We come from a time when capabilities were more or less standalone and employed in their own specific domain, and here we see a network of very complex systems that work with each other,” Adang said. “This is exactly what we need and I think the Netherlands is not the only country that’s interested in it.”
The Netherlands brought their Joint Air Ground Gateway capability to EDGE22, that Adang called a “tactical operations center in a box,” and which allowed for the successful passing of calls for fires and MEDEVAC during the experiment’s tactical scenario.
“When you talk to the international partners, that’s been a real game changer. For instance, an Italian message that’s been rooted through the Dutch box and distributed to all the partners on three different networks, that’s really, really a game changer,” Adang said. “This is a software-based solution which makes it much more flexible and much more adaptive. And tying all these networks together has been developed in real time during this exercise, which I think proves real innovation power that you achieve when you bring people from different countries together when you look at these types of solutions.”
Brig. Gen. Thomas Czirwitzky, director of external relations, armaments projects for the German Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre, said EDGE22 highlighted the importance of bringing in coalition partners to ensure senor, shooters and effectors can be networked together on the future battlefield.
“You have to have that integration and an international network so that the effector from Germany can work with the sensor from the Americans. So the international network has to work no matter which effector, which sensor, which decider is in the background,” Czirwitzky said.“ With the experience of this experiment, we have to discuss [potential agreements with the U.S. Army] on a national political basis and then we can come back to the U.S. to see in which way we come together in a more official way.”
Maj. Gen. Andrea Di Stasio, commander of Italian Army Aviation, also said his country is interested in the Army’s developments with its FVL program, while Col. Maxime Do Traan, military attaché to the French Embassy, said France plans to send command and controls to the next EDGE experiment.
“It’s crucial for us to see how we could be interoperable at each step of our modernization and the modernization of the U.S. Army. So it’s important to see how they manage their interoperability with partners and allies,” Do Tran said. “We don’t fight alone, you know. It’s always within the coalition.”