Bell Helicopter unveiled on 13 October the first full-scale mockup of it V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft that is the company’s entry into the joint multi-role technology demonstration (JMR-TD) program.
The aircraft is the third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft that improves upon the operational design of the V-22 Osprey, built by Bell and Boeing Co. The Valor’s direct competitor is the SB>1 Defiant, designed by a Boeing-Sikorsky team, which sports dual coaxial rotors and a pusher prop.
JMR will serve as a test of whether current technology can provide a leap forward in rotorcraft capability, to include cruising speeds above 230kts and improved range and hover performance at low speeds. The program will then feed into future vertical lift (FVL), which will eventually replace the Army’s entire fleet of rotorcraft beginning with the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk in the 2030 timeframe.
Two other, smaller companies submitted designs that were not chosen to fly during the JMR demonstration: AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft, which proposed a coaxial design and a tiltrotor, respectively. Army officials recently have hinted that they were interested in technologies developed by those companies if not entire aircraft. The future of their involvement in the partially government-funded JMR-TD is uncertain.
Bell says the Valor will have the ability to self-deploy up to 2,100nm and cruise at 280kts (322mph), twice the range and double the speed of any existing helicopter. Rather than tilting nacelles like the V-22, the Valor’s rotors tilt independent of its two engines, which allows for variable pitch and better stability in hover and transition, the company says.
Slightly bigger than a Black Hawk, the Valor will carry a crew of four and 14 combat-ready troops. It will also feature a triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system.
Bell also announced that the Valor JMR demonstrator would be powered by the GE Aviation T64-GE-419 5,000shp engine. GE will provide installation and test support for the aircraft during the demonstration, the company says.
Both competing aircraft will eventually use the future affordable turbine engine (FATE) in their production versions to achieve the range, power and fuel efficiency the US army desires.
“The Bell V-280 program is focused on moving forward to build and fly a trusted, affordable and effective aircraft as part of the continuing Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, the precursor to Future Vertical Lift,” says John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter, in a prepared statement.
“It is a great testament to Team Valor that we were selected to build and fly the V-280 Valor. The V-280 is a platform that can and will redefine military doctrine in the future. We are confident in our design, and we look forward to demonstrating V-280 capabilities in the months and years ahead.”