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SINGAPORE: Bell bets on tiltrotor export sales

Tiltrotor technology will provide the tool to allow Asia-Pacific nations to overcome the "tyranny of distance over water" in the future, believes Bell Helicopter's global head of military business.

Bell, in partnership with Boeing, already builds the V-22 Osprey for the US Marine Corps and US Air Force, and is separately developing the V-280 Valor as part of a technology demonstration effort.

Steve Mathias, vice-president global business development, says Bell is seeing "lots of inquiries" for a "V-280-size tiltrotor product" which would enable the rapid "movement of a squad of troops around a battlefield".

Mathias thinks the Valor can be as revolutionary as one of its rotary-wing predecessors. "Before the Huey there were other helicopters, but in Vietnam it revolutionised vertical lift and what a helicopter looked like.

"The V-280 will be the platform that changes the way the world looks at vertical lift," he says.

So far, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force is the sole export customer for the V-22, with an order for 17 examples. An initial aircraft was rolled out of Bell's Amarillo, Texas facility in October last year.

However, Mathias argues that the lower cost and greater capability promised by the V-280 will lead to more export interest than its predecessor.

The V-280 performed its maiden sortie in December 2017, with flights since then confined to low-altitude hovering.

But Mathias says the Valor recently began operating in the regular traffic pattern, flying at 80kt (148km/h). In addition, Bell's test pilots have begun to tilt the aircraft's proprotors from their vertical orientation as it prepares to move to airplane-mode flights "within the next few months".

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