Bell’s V-280 Valor Heralds a Revolutionary Leap for U.S. Army Aviation
Bell helicopter has now attached the wing to the fuselage of a new, next-generation tiltrotor aircraft engineered to reach speeds of 280 knots, fly for 800 kilometers on one tank of fuel, hover and maneuver in “high-hot” conditions and function as both a utility and attack helicopter platform.
The intention is to build an advanced, high-tech tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft to take flight in November of 2017 as part of an effort to ultimate build a future aircraft able to begin operations in the 2030s.
“There is one long wing. We attach the middle of the wing to the fuselage - the entire wing is one piece bolted to the fuselage of the airplane. One wing covers both sides. The wing is attached with aircraft grade structural fasteners. There are enough aircraft fasteners to provide sufficient strength to hold the aircraft together,” Vince Tobin, Vice President of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems, Bell Helicopter, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The new Bell tiltrotor, called the V-280 Valor, is part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program aimed at establishing requirements and paving the way toward a new Future Vertical Lift aircraft designed to meet a wide range of new requirements.
The concept behind the Army’s joint Future Vertical Lift program is to engineer a forward-looking, future aircraft able to reach airplane speeds and yet retain and ability to hover and maneuver like a helicopter.
“The aircraft will have an ability to come to a hover in challenging conditions and then, while at a hover, operate at low speeds with maneuvering capability to roll and yaw. We want it to have the handling perspective to make the aircraft able to do what it is able to do,” Tobin added.
In addition, the future aircraft is intended to be able to use fuel-efficient engine technology to allow an aircraft to travel at least 800 kilometers on a single tank of fuel. Such an ability will enable the aircraft to operate more easily one a single mission without needing Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs.
The idea is to engineer and aircraft able to fly from the west coast to Hawaii without needing to refuel.
(This piece first appeared in Scout Warrior here.)
“FVL is a high priority. We have identified capability gaps. We need technologies and designs that are different than what the current fleet has. It will carry more equipment, perform in high-hot conditions, be more maneuverable within the area of operations and execute missions at longer ranges,” Rich Kretzschmar, project manager for the FVL effort, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Requirements for the program are still being refined for the Army-led program, which is aimed at service future aircraft for all four services.
These requirements, now being put into actual demonstrator aircraft built by both Bell and a Boeing-Sikorsky industry teams, include building and aircraft able to reach speeds greater than 230 knots, hover in thin air at 6,000-feet and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, achieve a combat radius of at least 434 kilometers and be configured to include emerging sensors and mission equipment technologies likely to emerge by the 2030s.
“We had set 230 as the speed requirement because we wanted to push the technology. We wanted people to bring new ideas and new configurations to the table,” Dan Bailey, JMR TD Program Manager, said in an interview with Scout Warrior several months ago.
Advancing Tiltrotor Technology
Bell intends to build upon and advance existing tiltrotor technology such as that which is currently operation in the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey continues to perform well in a wide range of missions and has recently been selected by the Navy to perform the Carrier On-board Delivery or COD mission transporting troops, equipment and weapons on-and-off surface ships.
The V-280 Valor is designed to be slightly bigger than an existing Black Hawk helicopter and use 24-inch seats to carry 11 passengers with gear, Tobin said.
“What Bell has done is taking its historical V-22 aircraft, and all the demonstrators before that, and applies them to this next-generation tilt-rotor. It is a straight wing versus a V-22 which is not straight. This reduces complexity,” Bailey explained. “They are also building additional flapping into the rotor system and individual controls that should allow for increased low-speed maneuverability.”
The tiltrotors are slated to go on in November, Tobin added.
“We will get the gear boxes and transmission in before we get those blades on,” Tobin explained.
Depending upon ultimate requirement established by the Army and DoD, Bell expects to engineer an attack variant of the aircraft with a slightly different fuselage configuration.
“An armed attack version will have a gun, 2.75in folding-fin rockets and some type of point-to-point missile - hellfire or some later generation missile that would guide off of a laser or IR. We are being open ended in that we are not designing any specific requirement,” Tobin explained.
The new attack variant is expected to use a modernized or next-generation of existing Apache sensors and targeting systems called the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, or MTADS/PVS.