How Future Vertical Lift Will Help the Army Prepare for a Converged Battlespace

The Army’s Fight for Battlefield Control is Changing, Lockheed Martin is Leaning in with Innovation

Ask retired Lieutenant General Pat Donahue what difference just five years makes to the U.S. Army’s mission. He’ll tell you it’s virtually a world away.

“When I parted the service in 2017, after a 37-year career, the primary mission was counterinsurgency in Africa and the Middle East,” said Donahue. “Today the Department of Defense’s focus is the great power competition with Russia and China. There’s growing emphasis, too, on readiness to address tensions within the Indo-Pacific region.”

Donahue, who now works for Lockheed Martin, helps the firm translate mission realities into future technology programs. As the Army adapts its operations to oceans and islands, it will also shift strategies to countering well-resourced, highly disciplined and technologically-advanced militaries.

The key to mission overmatch: Joint All-Domain Operations (JADO)—connecting disparate assets to share data and enhance decision making.

To Win, the Army Needs to Fight with Integrated Weapons Across All Domains

What was once a concept is becoming a reality. Manned aircraft and air launched effects (ALEs) can work together to detect and locate threats.

One of the modernization tools that will support the Army’s transformation is Future Vertical Lift (FVL) including the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA). Through Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin is out front with RAIDER X® its FARA offering, and DEFIANT X™ for FLRAA, developed with partner Boeing.

RAIDER X and DEFIANT X – specifically designed to support JADO in the Indo-Pacific theatre – deliver combat power at the objective, also known as the ‘X.’ These agile, highly maneuverable aircraft offer high speed, range, low-level flight capabilities and enable the convergence of combat capabilities warfighters require in 2030 and beyond.

“FARA is the conductor, orchestrating the JADO fight. Through RAIDER X, we’ll process data from other systems and provide warfighters with real combat information, closing the sensor-to-shooter loop.”

Kevin Mangum, vice president of Army Aviation Programs at Lockheed Martin

No one better understands the significance of these capabilities than Kevin Mangum, retired Lieutenant General and master Army Aviator who commanded the Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

“FARA is the conductor, orchestrating the JADO fight. Through RAIDER X, we’ll process data from other systems and provide warfighters with real combat information, closing the sensor-to-shooter loop,” said Mangum, vice president of Army Aviation Programs at Lockheed Martin.

Mangum cited the company’s experience with systems like fighters, submarines and missiles as central to FVL.

“Integrating capability into a fifth-generation system and providing for tactical effect is what we do,” he said. “We want the Army to be able to catch up with the bad guys and pass them for decades to come.”

Future Air Assault missions, such as the one pictured above will be performed in a JADO environment

Future combined arms operations, such as the one pictured above will be performed in a JADO environment.

Data Enables the Army to Connect All Sensors with All Shooters

Success requires data.

"On a JADO battlefield, we have to pass data back and forth instantly for seamless decision making – and we’ve built and demonstrated systems that can do this,” said Donahue. “For the JADO fight to be successful, that data has to be standardized – which is something we’ve done and then fielded for our own systems."

Lockheed Martin has led technology development to enable the Army’s contribution to JADO, with an initial emphasis on integrating platforms to perform tasks they were never designed to perform.

“This is about integrating FVL into the JADO ecosystem – well beyond the traditional rotary-wing ecosystem,” said Andy Adams, vice president of Sikorsky’s Future Vertical Lift. 

“JADO is what Lockheed Martin does every day – for every service, in every domain, in platforms, weapon systems architectures and connecting across the joint domains – to enable any sensor, any appropriate shooter and any appropriate command and control.” 

Adams noted that at Lockheed Martin, it isn’t about connecting for the sake of connection, but enabling FVL missions to be accomplished with transformational range and speed, combined with improved connectivity, lethality and survivability. 

According to Adams, this JADO connectivity is critical. By drawing upon Lockheed Martin’s research and development, including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Automation/Autonomy to reduce operator workload, Lockheed Martin can further increase mission effectiveness and create a convergence of capabilities at the point and time of need.

Lockheed Martin Will Deliver This Capability Via Advanced Manufacturing and Sustainment

FVL promises to increase efficiency, reduce life cycle costs and accelerate the development-to-battlefield timeline. In order to do this, Lockheed Martin is leveraging an established, low-risk manufacturing capability augmented by a more than $600 million investment in digital thread and advanced manufacturing. This digital environment is embedded throughout the company’s engineering, manufacturing and sustainment workforce.

Lockheed Martin is already on the leading edge of digital engineering and advanced manufacturing on proven programs, like the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter and the CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter. The implementation of such advanced processes reduced lead-time for aircraft components by over 50%. Lockheed Martin began manufacturing components for FVL prototypes on production tooling while still in conceptual design. Then, less than a year later, completed hardware components were available for customer review, including comprehensive aircraft assembly simulations for all components.

The digital thread also makes it possible to achieve a highly cost-efficient sustainment process –proven today on Sikorsky’s commercial fleet. A digital twin of every aircraft will show the aircraft configuration and health and usage monitoring.

“FVL aircraft will provide much more actionable maintenance data, providing commanders with information to accurately assess the health state of the weapon systems as well as the ability to self-diagnose maintenance and predict aircraft availability,” said John Steiner, senior program manager at Sikorsky.

By incorporating digital transformation tools with new processes to integrate technologies, collect, monitor, and analyze data throughout the life cycle, it’s possible to lower costs and enable improved reliability growth. And by leveraging data analytics through Lockheed Martin’s mature Condition-Based Maintenance approach, the Army will spend less and get much more value from the parts they buy. This will also meet the Army’s ask for Maintenance-Free Operating Periods in which helicopters could operate without the need for service for an extended period of time — up to three months.

To learn more about how RAIDER X and DEFIANT X are helping to revolutionize Army Aviation, visit