Can Bell’s V-280 Valor Tiltrotor Helicopter Dethrone the Mighty Black Hawk?

Can Bell’s V-280 Valor Tiltrotor Helicopter Dethrone the Mighty Black Hawk?

Bell recently took apart a V-280 Valor to refine its sustainability and performance.


Bell engineers completely “took apart” their V-280 tiltrotor aircraft to ensure the platform can perform at an optimal level for decades into the future. Reliability and service life, coupled with an ability to be continuously upgraded over time, are key parameters likely being assessed by Army decision-makers analyzing several industry offerings for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program, an Army effort to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk.

Bell took apart a V-280 Valor that had been flying for a while to assess and refine its sustainability and performance.


“When we took apart the airplane, which is what we did starting in March, what we found was that the gearboxes were normal. There was not excessive wear and tear. In other words, our approach to building the gearboxes as well as all the other aircraft components were sound—we'd actually built the extra prop rotor gearboxes, extra blades, we never had to use any of those,” said retired Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president of strategic pursuits at Bell’s Advanced Vertical Lift Center. During his thirty-four-year military career, Schlosser commanded the Army’s well-known 101st Airborne Division.

Part of the rationale for taking the aircraft apart was to ensure long-term reliability, which, of course, vastly improves survivability by preventing in-flight malfunctions or mission failure in combat.

The technological premise for building the aircraft, Bell developers say, is a Modular Open Systems Architecture engineering approach. Essentially, this approach ensures common internet protocol, interfaces, and data standards, which is intended to enable the rapid, low-risk integration of upgrades and sustainment enhancements. These often take the form of software upgrades or adjustments to electronics, mission systems, and command and control systems. The pace of modernization, particularly with computer processing, artificial intelligence-enabled systems, and sensors, is so accelerated that Bell engineers made a concentrated effort to engineer the new V-280 with a technical infrastructure sufficient to ensure long-term upgradability and reliability. This ability to upgrade quickly and improve parts, systems, and aircraft technology greatly improves safety as well, particularly when anticipated component failures can be determined well in advance of any malfunction.

These advancements not only ensure successful modernization but also greatly improve the survivability of the aircraft.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.