Pentagon works to avoid past mistakes with next-gen helicopter program

As a program designed to develop a family of aircraft to replace workhorse helicopters for the Army and other services moves forward, an official who oversees the program is urging caution and deliberate action to ensure the Pentagon ends up with a winner.

Marine Col. Robert Freeland, a supervisor of the Future Vertical Lift program at the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, referred to “mistakes” made in the past that resulted in the Pentagon ending up with a less-than-ideal aircraft.

“If you get all the way to the [Engineering and Manufacturing Development] phase — that’s your Milestone B — you’re pretty much stuck with that configuration,” Freeland said during a panel discussion with industry partners at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.

” … We have to characterize and take the time to get reliability and maintainability right, and we’ve got to get the backbone in place with the appropriate interface controls,” he said. “Otherwise, [there is] so much inertia that you have to try to overcome, that you end up stuck with something.”

Freeland noted that some of the “really effective systems” in service today are very expensive to maintain due to issues that weren’t addressed in development.

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