US Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said in a press briefing the UK was interested in how it could replace the Chinook heavy-left helicopter with the in-development Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft in the long-term.
His comments came as this week the US and UK signed a joint modernisation agreement covering the development of long-range precision fires, networks and Future Vertical Lift capabilities of both countries’ armies.
Speaking during a telephone briefing McCarthy sketched out further details of the collaboration including the UK’s interest in the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).
Commenting on the possibility of the UK eventually replacing the Chinook, McCarthy said: “On the lift side, they are right-sizing their portfolio of lift platforms today. So they’re on the cusp of another procurement of CH-47 Chinooks, but they’re also looking at, over the long term, what would ultimately be the replacement platform, potentially a long-range assault aircraft.”
FLRAA is one of a number of Future Vertical Lift efforts underway by the US Army, the goal of the programme being to develop a successor to the UH-60 Blackhawk. Prototype FLRAA candidates include the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant and Bell V-280 Valor.
Commenting on the collaboration agreement, McCarthy said it was ‘military-to-military’ and locked in on a number of development efforts adding that on some fronts industry involvement and buying decisions could come soon.
McCarthy said: “It is military-to-military and what we did was really lock in on a certain set of weapons systems: precision strike missiles, the lift platforms I mentioned, the common operating picture and some on the networks. On the soldier lethality front, the next-generation squad weapon, night-vision goggles. We talked about – to them about the integrated visual augmentation system as well.
“So that is at the mil-to-mil, and at the – if the interest leads to a buying decision, then obviously we will bring industry into the fold, but that could come very soon on a couple of them.”
On long-range precision fires, McCarthy added that the UK was interested in either recapitalising HIMARS or looking to Lockheed Martin’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) to upgrade its capabilities.
Before taking questions McCarthy commented on the Anglo-American joint modernisation agreement saying: “Starting in the United Kingdom, great discussions with counterparts where we talked about joint training exercises, but in particular made the announcement of a pursuit of a joint modernisation effort where we are looking at elaborating on the development of weapons systems and long-range precision fires network, future vertical lift platforms, as well as soldier and ground lethality capabilities.”
McCarthy has been in Europe visiting US allies on a trip that was originally planned for March but was delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.