Bell Helicopter says that its V-280 Valor third-generation tiltrotor design has been selected by the US Army for its Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme.
"The V-280 Valor will provide the army's most sought-after capability, with a cruise speed of 280kt [519km/h]," says Keith Flail, director of Bell's future vertical lift effort. The service hopes to develop an aircraft that can achieve a cruise speed of at least 230kt for the JMR-TD effort and its follow-on Future Vertical Lift programme.
Flail says the V-280 improves on the technology found in the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and is being designed to provide "outstanding" low-speed agility, multiple-g high-speed manoeuverability, superior fuel efficiency and improved range capabilities. Much of the aircraft's handling characteristics will be due to a new triple redundant fly-by-wire system that Bell hopes to incorporate into the machine.
The aircraft is also being designed to hover out of ground effect at a pressure altitude of 1,830m (6,000ft) at an ambient temperature of 35˚C (95˚F). Bell claims the V-280 will cruise at speeds of 280kt true airspeed and have a combat range of between 500nm (926km) and 800nm. It should also be able to self-deploy over a distance of 2,100nm.
Flail also claims the aircraft will have improved reliability and reduced costs, because the new clean sheet design reduces complexity compared to previous generation tiltrotors.
Bell's main competitor during the JMR-TD programme is expected to be a team consisting of Sikorsky and Boeing, which was its partner on the V-22. The two companies are pitching a high-speed compound helicopter design based on Sikorsky's self-funded X2 prototype for the army technolody demonstrator effort.
“The Sikorsky Boeing team is extremely pleased to have been invited by the US Army to negotiate a technology investment agreement for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator Phase I programme,” the two companies say. “Our team brings a shared commitment to invest in next-generation rotorcraft technology based on Sikorsky’s X2 rigid rotor coaxial design.” Meanwhile, EADS North America recently told the army that it will drop out of the programme.
The army is expected to award JMR-TD contracts by September 2013, with first flights scheduled for 2017. The programme is expected to inform the Future Vertical Lift programme, which aspires to field a new medium-lift high-speed rotorcraft design to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk series in the 2030s. It could also spawn an effort to replace the Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopter. That market could be worth as much as $100 billion, according to Bell.