Bell plans to make no more significant investments in its V-280 Valor tiltrotor until the US Army makes a commitment to Future Vertical Lift Capability Set 1 or Capability Set 3 programmes.
After the V-280 reached its 280kt (519km/h) speed goal on 23 January, Bell believes that it sufficiently demonstrated the tiltrotor technology.
“I think our team has done everything we've asked of them to design and build a terrific aircraft. Its maneuverability is outstanding. It's been demonstrated,” said Scott Donnelly, chief executive of Bell, on an earnings call. “So at this point, look, we'll have no choice but to roll back any funding that we put into it, waiting to see what the Army is going to do, because we've done what we can do.”
The Bell V-280 is a demonstrator for the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator programme, a precursor to the service’s effort to replace its fleet of helicopters, called the Future Vertical Lift programme. The V-280 would be a contender for Capability Set 3 of the programme, which aims to replace the US Army’s fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.
Capability Set 1 is a stated desire by the service to replace its Bell OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters, which have been retired since 2017. Bell says it will also participate in the competition for the next generation scout helicopter, but has declined to say what its bid will look like or whether it will be based on tiltrotor technology or another concept.
Despite tapping the brakes on future investments in the V-280, Bell’s Donnelly says he is optimistic about the Future Vertical Lift programmes.
“We're certainly encouraged by the dialogue that we've had, and I think the Army has had publicly around their desire to accelerate these programs, both Cap. Set 1 and Cap. Set 3,” he says. “So, we would certainly hope to hear shortly, to start to see that those statements turn into some contracted work.”