Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC)

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yasotay

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NATO not prioritising very high speed for next-generation helicopter

By Dominic Perry

14 May 2021

NATO members driving the development of a next-generation rotorcraft appear to be prioritising range and capability – including use as an optionally piloted aircraft – over very high speed, according to documents released by the alliance.

In addition, two new countries, Spain and the USA, are considering joining the five nations that signed up to the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) initiative last year: France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the UK.

In an invite to a September industry day, the alliance’s NSPA procurement body details the required attributes of the NGRC.

It should, the document says, have a range in excess of 900nm (1,650km), a maximum take-off weight of 10-17t, capacity for up to 16 troops in full combat gear or mission equipment, endurance of more than 5h, or up to 8h with additional fuel tanks. Combined internal and external payload should be greater than 4t, with at least 2.5t carried internally.

Additionally, it should be capable of being used in as an “optionally unmanned/remotely piloted vehicle”, it says. Maritime and land variants should use a common airframe and have a footprint no larger than the NH Industries NH90 or Leonardo Helicopters AW101, including a folding tail and main rotors.

While the NGRC is intended to be faster than a conventional helicopter, where cruise speeds are around 150kt (280km/h), its intended cruise speed – “optimally 220kt or more but not less than 180kt” – is less than that of the 250-280kt currently envisaged by the US Army for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft. One contender for that requirement, the Bell V-280 Valor cruises at 280kt and has been taken to speeds above 300kt.

Affordability and availability are also key metrics: the NGRC should have a fly-away cost of no more than €35 million ($42 million) and a cost-per-flight-hour of “optimally” €5,000 but no more than €10,000. Meanwhile, availability rates for forward deployed fleets should hit 75%.

Under the heading “desired attributes”, the document reveals that the NGRC should use “novel/hybrid powerplant” producing at least 3,000shp (2,240kW), feature “fly-by-light/fly-by-wire” controls, be capable of being transported in an Airbus Defence & Space A400M or Boeing C-17 with minimal disassembly, be capable of carrying out air-to-air refuelling and feature an array of mission equipment and weapon systems, including air-launched effects.

In addition, it should be able to conducted manned-unmanned teaming, including managing a swarm of unmanned air vehicles, launching small “expendable” drones and, recovering small drones in flight.

The NGRC is due to enter service in 2035. Its development is being driven by the forecast retirement of around 1,000 medium-lift helicopters operated by NATO members other than the USA in the 2030-2040 period.

A letter of intent covering co-operation on the NGRC development was signed by five nations in October 2020, but the document notes that “Spain and [the] USA are also considering joining”.


Sikorsky-Boeing likely doing the "Happy Dance" along with Airbus.
 

H_K

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That speed/range profile smells like it’s optimized for the Airbus RACER configuration to me (especially knowing some of the countries driving the requirements). But will be interesting to see how they’ll handle the A400M internal carriage requirement.
 

yasotay

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RACER will be great for civil functions and perhaps some military like CSAR. However as I have stated several times before on this forum, I believe whirling props in a dark landing zone with tired and likely adrenaline hopped soldiers getting on or off of the aircraft is a receipt for disaster.

Also, does anyone have a link to the NATO document mentioned in the article?
 

yasotay

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Will we go back to UCAR ?
Until the electroids decide that the exceedingly slow carbon based infestation no longer need be tolerated, there will be an undercurrent of necessity for human judgement.

Personally I think that the eVTOL efforts will be the impetus to move away from human controlled platforms. At least for the ones that carry humans. UCAR... possibly sooner, if they can make them less reliant on people to make them operate. I think the Iranian's "stealing" a very advanced "mostly" secret UAS a few years ago put a big dent in the macro trust of the DoD. It is a conservative organization by nature anyway.
 
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AeroFranz

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Maritime and land variants should use a common airframe and have a footprint no larger than the NH Industries NH90 or Leonardo Helicopters AW101, including a folding tail and main rotors.

I want to see how they tackle folding the wings and props on a Racer-like configuration! :eek:
 

H_K

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I want to see how they tackle folding the wings and props on a Racer-like configuration! :eek:

Most likely the same way a tail rotor is folded... ie. via a pair of load bearing hinges with a shaft connector.

img_78-1_88.jpg


There are a couple of papers on the Racer wing structure that show how the wing attaches to the fuselage also via a pair of hinges and a shaft connector... so folding potential may exist.




ADT-0620-p18_fig2.jpg


ADT-0620-p18_fig1.jpg
 

TomcatViP

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The hinges are more there for the torsional loads (see illustration 12 on the pdf doc).

Probably that they have a quick connect/ disconnect feature in mind. Otherwise with a twin double attachement points, the only freedom of travel they have is folding up and down, what won't help much here.
 
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H_K

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Thanks @TomcatViP. Quick disconnect could work for air transport but for naval use they will need a folding mechanism of some kind.

I wonder if a single vertical hinge for folding with 2 quick disconnect horizontal hinges for torsional loads could work... time to bring some Fairey designers back from the dead? ;-)

benshahar_barracuda_01.jpg


Edit: Or alternatively maybe the maritime version will just forgo the wings and use a traditional tail rotor? That should still meet the requirement for a « common airframe ».
 
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H_K

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Found the NGRC requirements document here:


Required attributes
  1. Ability to act as an optionally unmanned/remotely piloted vehicle
  2. Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) inclusive of the digital backbone and AI AIDED multi‐sensor fusion, allowing cost effective and simple integration of upgrades and spiral development (including nationally sensitive/proprietary equipment).
  3. Manoeuvrability & Agility: Level 1 (the pilot is able to achieve all missions including Deck landings, Low Level (NOE) NVD, Formation, within safety and performance standards).
  4. Availability of >75% on operational/forward fleet for an enduring period (i.e. at least 3 of 4 routinely available every day). A technical-logistic support system based on in-flight data exchange between aircraft and ship or ground station.
  5. Internal cabin dimensions of at least 2m x 1.6m x 5m facilitating transport of 12- 16 troops in Combat Equipment Marching Order (CEMO) (160kg) or being usable for installation of mission equipment such as ASW
  6. Affordability: Fly-away cost of no greater than €35M and cost per flight hour optimally €5,000 but no greater than €10,000 (based on 2021 values).
  7. Load Lifting capacity of >4,000kg (Combined external and internal) and at least 2,500kg of internal cabin payload with Max Fuel/ 80% Max Fuel.
  8. Range: Must have an unrefuelled range > 900nm (1650km).
  9. ROA > 400nm with 30 minute loiter time.
  10. Cruise airspeed in mission configuration: optimally 220 Kts or more but not less than 180 Kts.
  11. Ability for rapid reconfiguration of aircraft in accordance with operator’s individual requirements (Special ops, ASuW/ ASW / EW, SAR, PR, MEDEVAC, other).
  12. Endurance: >5 hrs with crew and payload of >1,000 Kgs. (Target 8 hours endurance with range tanks).
  13. Maximum mission take-off gross target weight (MAUM) of 10,000 kg - 17,000 kg
  14. Able to be deployed for medium-long periods (6-9 months) and fully operate from Frigate (FF)/Destroyer (DD) class of vessel, i.e. not larger than the footprint or dimension of either NH-90 (NFH), or AW-101, including the optional capability of folding main rotor/tail to be moved onto ship's elevator/hangar for maritime operations.
  15. Common airframe to land/air and maritime variants (fully “wet-assembled”), which has to address all land/air and maritime requirements. In case they cannot be addressed, development of separate land/air and maritime variants should be considered.

Desired attributes
  1. Performance: HOGE 4000ft @(ISA+25° Celsius (95 °F) at MAUM.
  2. Multiplex fly by light/fly by wire
  3. Responsiveness: 2 min automated rapid start, full systems at 8 min.
  4. Mission Equipment incl. Rescue Hoist, cargo sling, Fast Rope, LTES, RTES, FMV Downlink capability, deck lock, surface radar, early warning radar, sonar, tactical data link, deck lock, ballistic protections, Electro-Optical sensor
  5. Novel/Hybrid Powerplant (3000 SHP+)
  6. Advanced Teaming of organic and 3rd party assets (included Teaming & Interoperability with unmanned vehicle (MUMT):
     capability to manage swarm drone;
     capability to launch small (mini-micro) drone (expendable and attritable);
     capability to recover small (mini-micro) drone (recoverable)
  7. Air Transportable in a single A400M (or C-17) without the disassembly of major systems.
  8. Air to Air refuelling capability (as a receiver and optionally a donor)
  9. Capable of full range of scalable, lethal, and non-lethal effects, including the available hard points and mountings such that msn equipment, ALE, launch tubes/rails and ISTAR hardware can be physically integrated
  10. Armaments. Improved Crew Served Weapons. Options for rockets, missiles, Air Launched Effects (ALE), and Tactical Off Board Sensors (TOBS).
 

yasotay

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I think the comment that the parameters were set to allow Airbus RACER technology to compete was spot on. Both FVL FLRAA competitors are still able to be part of the effort. The difficult standard for the more conventional rotorcraft may be the range requirement. Recovering small microdrones I suspect will go away early in the discussion.
 

AeroFranz

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I want to see how they tackle folding the wings and props on a Racer-like configuration! :eek:

Most likely the same way a tail rotor is folded... ie. via a pair of load bearing hinges with a shaft connector.

img_78-1_88.jpg


There are a couple of papers on the Racer wing structure that show how the wing attaches to the fuselage also via a pair of hinges and a shaft connector... so folding potential may exist.




ADT-0620-p18_fig2.jpg


ADT-0620-p18_fig1.jpg
That certainly seems like the most reasonable way to handle things, and I'm sure a CH-53K passes more shaft power through the quick disconnect than what this will require, so it's not outside of the state of the art...
Nonetheless, it can't be light, it will come out of payload or range.
The Racer configuration may not need as much tail moment arm as a conventional rotorcraft, but it may still be enough that a fold is required. If that's the case, it will be an interesting geometry problem!
thanks for the link to the references, interesting stuff!
 

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Nonetheless, it can't be light, it will come out of payload or range.
The way I see this, you’re eliminating one tail rotor and replacing it with 2 side rotors... net gain of only one rotor. Same with any folding mechanism.

As for shaft length, it’s about the same in both cases as the side rotors are closer to the MGB than the tail rotor... so no weight gain there. Finally the wings add a little weight, offset somewhat by the lighter tail structure and they pay for themselves in fuel savings.

So all in all, what’s the net weight penalty? 5%, maybe 10% of empty weight? And what about compared to other solutions like Sikorsky’s or a tilt rotor? Would seem relatively favorable.
 
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yasotay

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Anyone think that the H160 from Airbus might end up with a "thin" attack version?

Or will they just go with H160 as it is currently designed with appropriate avionics and weapons?
 

H_K

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That could work as a Tiger replacement, as the H160 is very close in takeoff weight and engine power. But none of the Tiger home countries are in the market for a replacement (yet).

But maybe in 10-15 years… take the H160’s dynamic system and Arrano engine and mate them to a Tiger airframe? Why not?

(Not sure this has anything to do with NGRC though)
 

TomcatViP

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Too tall. Too big. Too soft skinned (think at the mass of armor needed given the volume).
But you probably can pack 500kg of deployable effectors and call it a success.
 

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Found the NGRC requirements document here:


Required attributes
  1. Ability to act as an optionally unmanned/remotely piloted vehicle
  2. Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) inclusive of the digital backbone and AI AIDED multi‐sensor fusion, allowing cost effective and simple integration of upgrades and spiral development (including nationally sensitive/proprietary equipment).
  3. Manoeuvrability & Agility: Level 1 (the pilot is able to achieve all missions including Deck landings, Low Level (NOE) NVD, Formation, within safety and performance standards).
  4. Availability of >75% on operational/forward fleet for an enduring period (i.e. at least 3 of 4 routinely available every day). A technical-logistic support system based on in-flight data exchange between aircraft and ship or ground station.
  5. Internal cabin dimensions of at least 2m x 1.6m x 5m facilitating transport of 12- 16 troops in Combat Equipment Marching Order (CEMO) (160kg) or being usable for installation of mission equipment such as ASW
  6. Affordability: Fly-away cost of no greater than €35M and cost per flight hour optimally €5,000 but no greater than €10,000 (based on 2021 values).
  7. Load Lifting capacity of >4,000kg (Combined external and internal) and at least 2,500kg of internal cabin payload with Max Fuel/ 80% Max Fuel.
  8. Range: Must have an unrefuelled range > 900nm (1650km).
  9. ROA > 400nm with 30 minute loiter time.
  10. Cruise airspeed in mission configuration: optimally 220 Kts or more but not less than 180 Kts.
  11. Ability for rapid reconfiguration of aircraft in accordance with operator’s individual requirements (Special ops, ASuW/ ASW / EW, SAR, PR, MEDEVAC, other).
  12. Endurance: >5 hrs with crew and payload of >1,000 Kgs. (Target 8 hours endurance with range tanks).
  13. Maximum mission take-off gross target weight (MAUM) of 10,000 kg - 17,000 kg
  14. Able to be deployed for medium-long periods (6-9 months) and fully operate from Frigate (FF)/Destroyer (DD) class of vessel, i.e. not larger than the footprint or dimension of either NH-90 (NFH), or AW-101, including the optional capability of folding main rotor/tail to be moved onto ship's elevator/hangar for maritime operations.
  15. Common airframe to land/air and maritime variants (fully “wet-assembled”), which has to address all land/air and maritime requirements. In case they cannot be addressed, development of separate land/air and maritime variants should be considered.

Desired attributes
  1. Performance: HOGE 4000ft @(ISA+25° Celsius (95 °F) at MAUM.
  2. Multiplex fly by light/fly by wire
  3. Responsiveness: 2 min automated rapid start, full systems at 8 min.
  4. Mission Equipment incl. Rescue Hoist, cargo sling, Fast Rope, LTES, RTES, FMV Downlink capability, deck lock, surface radar, early warning radar, sonar, tactical data link, deck lock, ballistic protections, Electro-Optical sensor
  5. Novel/Hybrid Powerplant (3000 SHP+)
  6. Advanced Teaming of organic and 3rd party assets (included Teaming & Interoperability with unmanned vehicle (MUMT):
     capability to manage swarm drone;
     capability to launch small (mini-micro) drone (expendable and attritable);
     capability to recover small (mini-micro) drone (recoverable)
  7. Air Transportable in a single A400M (or C-17) without the disassembly of major systems.
  8. Air to Air refuelling capability (as a receiver and optionally a donor)
  9. Capable of full range of scalable, lethal, and non-lethal effects, including the available hard points and mountings such that msn equipment, ALE, launch tubes/rails and ISTAR hardware can be physically integrated
  10. Armaments. Improved Crew Served Weapons. Options for rockets, missiles, Air Launched Effects (ALE), and Tactical Off Board Sensors (TOBS).
I like the first one ability to be optionally manned.

Airbus played around with an unmanned EC155B1 around 2 decades ago for classified DGA program.

Then under a decade ago ..

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z9LdL-VA3E
 

yasotay

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While I expect that FVL FLRAA will be a consideration, I cannot see the EU letting a significant segment of their aerospace industry atrophy to something slightly more than a caretaker status. To be sure there will be a rotorcraft venue, but with the significant increase in the number of viable alternatives beyond EU, US and Russia for military rotorcraft, not staying on top of the game comes with significant political and fiscal risk.
 

coanda

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I still think that the racer should have electric motors and not be shaft driven. Solves a lot of problems highlighted in the last few posts.
 

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@coanda Electric motors aren’t ready for primetime… too heavy. Let’s see someone design a working electric tail rotor first, then we can discuss other applications requiring a lot more power.
 

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2700hp for 270kg should be well enough for an hybrid setup given that a proper reflection is made.

 

yasotay

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@coanda Electric motors aren’t ready for primetime… too heavy. Let’s see someone design a working electric tail rotor first, then we can discuss other applications requiring a lot more power. Bell'lectrictail.JPG
May not be your point, but an electric tail rotor(s) system. I know it has flown once. Not sure of it status, but Bell engineers seem excited they are on the right path.
 
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coanda

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@coanda Electric motors aren’t ready for primetime… too heavy. Let’s see someone design a working electric tail rotor first, then we can discuss other applications requiring a lot more power.
I disagree. Plenty of electric propulsive systems out there now.
 

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@coanda Electric motors aren’t ready for primetime… too heavy. Let’s see someone design a working electric tail rotor first, then we can discuss other applications requiring a lot more power.
I disagree. Plenty of electric propulsive systems out there now.
I must have missed them. Name an in-production aircraft (fixed or rotary wing), or at the very least a commercially viable prototype, with an electric system producing several hundred KW for several hours, and delivering a significant % of the aircraft’s power requirements (say >20%).
 

AeroFranz

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I wish that were the case, that electrics have come that far. If you design a complete powertrain + energy system, you really must have a very weird mission profile for electrics come on top.
 

coanda

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@coanda Electric motors aren’t ready for primetime… too heavy. Let’s see someone design a working electric tail rotor first, then we can discuss other applications requiring a lot more power.
I disagree. Plenty of electric propulsive systems out there now.
I must have missed them. Name an in-production aircraft (fixed or rotary wing), or at the very least a commercially viable prototype, with an electric system producing several hundred KW for several hours, and delivering a significant % of the aircraft’s power requirements (say >20%).
You said electric motors - there are electric motors that are going primetime now, with hundreds of kw. The problem isn't in the motor technology, its in the batteries. A generator driven electric motor is quite capable of doing the job of the shaft driven props.
 

yasotay

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I can agree that there are currently no electrically driven rotorcraft. I doubt that any vendor would propose a fully electric or even partially electric combat rotorcraft for consideration, at this point. However I also remind that there is tremendous amounts of technology work ongoing (without the bureaucracy of government) and that at least the USAF is observing. I am a fan of hybrid myself. Whereby there is still a jet fuel turbine generating the electrical power through multi-path conduits to electric motor driven, thus making redundant the mechanical shafting required today, while providing more means to keep the aircraft flying.

I might recommend this particular bit of the conversation move to the newly established aircraft design topic.
 

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A generator driven electric motor is quite capable of doing the job of the shaft driven props.

Begs the question then of why electric drive hasn't been used yet for obvious applications such as tail rotors, beyond a few experimental trials... perhaps because there are some downsides / limitations that you are ignoring?

My point is that if the technology hasn't been made to work for a relatively small tail rotor, then it isn't ready for a much more powerful propeller.
 

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Testing...
That's where public subsidies should help. Those are there to bear the economical risks and prove (or not) emerging technologies.
Not to satisfy other means...
 

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Testing...
That's where public subsidies should help. Those are there to bear the economical risks and prove (or not) emerging technologies.

Sure. But there's enough novelty and unproven hardware with all these fast helicopter programs that it would be crazy to layer in yet one more layer of innovation. Let's see these fast helicopters work with traditional mechanical drives. Then in 15-20 years we can see if adding electrification, hydrogen and other fancy technologies makes sense (once these have been proven elsewhere).
 

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Attempts at electric rotorcraft by Karem (although not as the power source) have not met with success.
 

coanda

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A generator driven electric motor is quite capable of doing the job of the shaft driven props.

Begs the question then of why electric drive hasn't been used yet for obvious applications such as tail rotors, beyond a few experimental trials... perhaps because there are some downsides / limitations that you are ignoring?

My point is that if the technology hasn't been made to work for a relatively small tail rotor, then it isn't ready for a much more powerful propeller.

I think you're downplaying the complexity of a tail rotor system. Bell has proven EDAT to work very clearly - it flies after all. According to Bell there are many advantages to EDAT. In my opinion I think that 4 smaller motors with fixed pitch props is a bit of overkill, but is likely the simplest system. I'm yet to find any downsides or limitations - I'm a fairly pragmatic aerospace engineer, if its crap then its crap. So far, I don't see an insurmountable issue with electric motors . Happy to read a coherent post on these limitations and downsides you think I'm ignoring.

As it happens this topic is a focus of my professional life. Just because a technology hasn't been seen yet doesn't mean that there's no work going on around it, or that it won't be seen. It's clear that electric propulsion systems do work - there are millions of electric vehicles out there, more and more of them are going to be aerospace vehicles. Specifying and certificating a system for an aerospace environment is a significant undertaking - as the company I work for, and many like it, are finding out right now.
 

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