Bell Touts New Tilt-Rotor High-Speed Helicopter

Bell's V280 next generation VTOL variantBell Helicopter is beginning to manufacture parts for its new V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft, a next-generation helicopter being developed as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD program.

The program is an Army-led joint program designed to replace the Army’s current fleet of helicopters.

Bell unveiled a full-scale mock-up of the V-280 Valor on the floor at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., in order to showcase the configuration and design of its new high-speed platform.

Slated to fly by 2017, the V-280 is engineered to reach speed of 280 knots, achieve a combat range up to 800 nautical miles and perform in what’s called “high-hot” conditions — described as 95-degrees Fahrenheit and 6,000-feet.

Bell plans to leverage the technological gains made by its construction of the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft now in service which was first produced in the late 1980s.

“We make the V-22 Osprey — so with those over 250,000 hours of flight experience and all those lessons learned. We’re able to apply all of that into a clean sheet design for Joint Multi-Role Tech Demonstrator. Osprey is designed with 80’s technologies. This (V-280) is an aircraft that is more focused on the infantry squad, whereas the V-22 is able to carry 24 Marines so it is a different scale aircraft,” said Keith Flail, Bell program director, JMR TD.

Similar to the tilt-rotor technologies used for the V-22 Osprey, the V-280 Valor uses propellers attached to wings on either side of the aircraft. When the propellers are vertical and point upwards, the aircraft can hover and maneuver in helicopter mode. However, once the propellers move down and become horizontally aligned with the wings on either side of the aircraft, the helicopter can reach high speeds and function like a turbo-prop aircraft, Flail explained.

Developers of the V-280 Valor explained that the aircraft will be engineered to fly twice as fast and twice as far as today’s helicopters. In addition, Flail pointed to the range and current function of the Osprey as evidence of the kind of advantage tilt-rotor technology can bring to the military.,

“You can see what the Osprey doing around the globe right now regarding the tyranny of distance. You can see that there are some missions that only a tilt-rotor, only an Osprey, can do. We have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of the Osprey and look at those technologies to bring tilt-rotor to an even greater state of maturation,” he explained.

Alongside being engineered to reach speeds of 280 knots, the V-280 is also focused on improving helicopter-like maneuverability, Flail said.

“One of the major focus areas is having something that handles very much like a helicopter in terms of low-speed agility. We’ve done a lot of work with the rotor system coupled with the fly by wire flight control system. This will give you unprecedented pitch, roll and yaw response for those low-speed operations,” he added.

Early work on initial parts for the V-280 is now underway at a Bell facility in Amarillo, Texas. The aircraft is being built with all composite materials to drop weight and increase protection on the aircraft.

“Right now we’re past preliminary design review and we’re coming up on critical design review. This is the detailed design phase where we are releasing all of our engineering for all the respective parts and components on the aircraft,” he said.

Roughly the size of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, the V-280 is designed to accommodate a crew of four and 14 troops. Also, the V-280 is being engineered to carry payloads up to 12,000 pounds. This includes sling-loading a towed-howitzer artillery weapon beneath the aircraft, Flail said.

While designed as part of the tilt-rotor engineering configuration, the two wings on the aircraft bring the additional advantage of blocking the “rotorwash” or downward flowing air coming from the rotors. This creates a better environment for fast rope and hoist operations, Flail added.

As the leader of a joint program designed for all services, the Army plans to use the technology demonstrator phase of the effort to refine specs, requirements and functions for an eventual program of record aimed at building a future aircraft which can fly much further and faster than existing helicopters.

“If you can go twice as fast and twice as far – you have eliminated the need for forward arming and refueling points. You can basically have one FOB (forward operating base) in the middle of Afghanistan and cover the entire country,” Flail said.

Flail also added that the range of many of today’s helicopters is simply not far enough for them to operate between land masses in areas such as the Pacific.

The Bell-Textron Valor is one of two industry teams awarded development deals by the Army-led JMR TD program. Another team, led by a Sikorsky-Boeing combination, is developing a coaxial rotor-blade design aircraft called the SB>1 Defiant.

In total, Bell is developing utility, attack, MEDEVAC, Marine Corps, Navy and Army variants of the V-280 Valor.

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About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • blight_qwerty

    A bigger tilt-rotor would be nice for the heavy cargo mission, and perhaps one day to replace the AC-130 as flying weapons platform. If they’re looking to substitute it in for the Blackhawk…will it carry a towed artillery piece? Can it carry Humvee or Humvee successor? How will the attack version succeed where the Osprey could not, in re being able to fire forward while rotors are forward?

    • FormerDirtDart

      You’re right. The sling load is one of the major problems with Bell’s program.
      No matter what they try to convince people, tilt-rotors are terribly inefficient in vertical thrust mode. And, external load operations will always be a huge part of any Army utility helicopter’s overall operations.
      Let’s not also bring up the tilt-rotors inherent loss of vertical lift capability at high altitudes. Right now, at a certain point, UH-60s can execute vertical takeoffs with heavier loads at high altitudes than an V-22 can,

      If the Army is going to use funds to develop niche capabilities, instead of tilt-rotors they should develop super short takeoff and landing (SSTOL) aircraft.
      It’s probably the direction the should have taken with the Future/Joint Cargo Aircraft program.
      Develop a plane in the cargo weight category somewhere between the C-2/C-23 and that of the CH-47/53 & C-27J that is capable of the short field operations characteristics that the XC-142 achieved when it’s wings were set at high angles of attack instead of vertically.

      http://youtu.be/fE8GjdFLoAI?t=2m57s
      http://youtu.be/j7VGzpfL-gY

      Something like that might also interest the Navy for COD operations.
      http://youtu.be/buh7_xLG4ZE?list=PL9XMqpzHpUBV04B…

    • Augest

      replace the C-130 with this? Or actually you said a bigger so I am a little confused. The AC-130 is a four turbo prop plane that not only carry cargo, Men and some of the heaviest weapons you could get on an aircraft. 1 a Howitzer, 2 a Bofors 40mm cannon several 30mm guns and minis. I do not think the AC-130 is replaceable by a tilt rotor aircraft.

  • Dfens

    The Army would have to have rocks in their heads to buy these. They have all the down sides of the V-22 for the up side of having another guaranteed 25 year development program. I like the way they are making all composite “to increase protection.” What they don’t tell you is that composites don’t take battle damage well. Not that it matters. In 25 years the Army will cancel this program and we will all be so damn thankful they did. Then they’ll start another program doing everything the same except once again expecting a better result. Because that always works: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2014-10-12/

    • tiger

      Lousy argument point.

  • AAK

    The speed/range argument has merit for a blackhawk replacement, but why include the apache as well? It is entirely possible that the Bell concept is a better general purpose vehicle, while the Sikorsky/boeing is better for an attack/patrol craft. Or vice versa, I dunno.

    But even with the supply chain issue with 2 programs etc I very much doubt a single program will be cheaper. Giving 1 company a massive 3 decade program with no competition (even if not directly competing, having 2 suppliers gives some idea of who is rorting and how things can be improved) has proven to be disastrous before.

    Also, if the Valor is selected, how does that work for shipboard replacements? Can the ships that use the seahawk handle the footprint of this thing?

  • Lawrence

    That larger footprint is going to be a problem comparing it to S-97 if all others spec being the same.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Let’s hope this one is better than the Osprey…

  • Lance

    Knowing th nukber of crashes with the MV-22 why bother with a Army version. Face it the V-22 is a death trap. WHie faster it offer nothing over a real heavy lift chopper. Speed isnt everything face it it can go 300+ MPH it cant out speed a incoming missile.

  • Jeff

    I dropped 20 IQ points just reading all these comments. Bunch of armchair generals that don’t know what they are talking about.

  • Jack

    The MV-22 had a long and expensive development program (due to bleeding edge tech)-and early on had some bad crashes. But the safety record has been good for years-so why do armchair generals not recognize this? Compare the current safety record of the MV-22 with current rotor craft you lazy know-nothing lunkheads.

    Tilt-rotors provide a significant advantage in speed, range, and combat flexibility over conventional rotor craft. This is not a ‘nice to have’ or ‘gee-whiz’ feature-it is essential to the tactics of the modern military operations globally-especially in the Pacific.

    Tilt-rotor craft will mature further with the V280, further advancing the tech. What annoys me most about armchair critics of major weapons systems is that they form an opinion frozen in time-while the tech keeps improving with each lesson learned and new block upgrade. For example, the original F-16 killed fighter pilots in testing and was nothing like the platform it became over time with upgrades.

    Large complex weapons systems will inevitably have teething problems and the version 1.0 will rarely be perfect. But over time, the tech is improved incrementally so that the later products are often vast improvements over the original versions, even though the ‘look’ the same.

    There is one criticism I might make, and that is that the Valor may be ideal for some combat roles, but in other combat roles, a conventional rotor craft may be better suited. Trying to make one model fit all roles is not usually a good idea.

  • citanon

    It will be very interesting to see how much they can push the low speed maneuvering capabilities of this vehicle.

    I find it highly dubious that it can match the X2 type helicopters in that department, but then the X2 based concepts will not be able to reach its speed.

    Seems like the Army will be best served with a split buy. Larger cargo aircraft from this concept, Apache replacement and Blackhawk replacement from the X2 derivatives.

    Of course, there is the money issue…..

  • oblatt22

    The V22 was a bad concept driven for 25 years by marketing. This is the same nonsense all over again.

  • JCitizen

    Has anyone seen an explanation of why that V-22 crashed soon after a deck take off near Japan the other day? One of the crewmen swam and made it, but one other one is lost at sea. I remember reading speculation that it was actually struck by a wave!!! So far that has been the only crash that has shook my confidence - but then information on just what happened is not forth coming yet.

  • gkm

    it will probably cost more than a jet fighter and get shot up like a hot air balloon. the generals will jump up and down yelling ” oh, can we have 5000 of these”. and it will take another decade to field it. and a year after it is fielded they will want to spend millions more to up grade the damn thing. another good soaking of the american tax payer by the military/ industrial complex.

  • Joe Biden

    But it TOTALLY looks like the things in Avatar!

  • Joe Ramirez

    Looks like a great piece of equipment. Just make sure there are great defensive features built into it to protect its flight crew and extend its service life.

  • Warrior24_7

    The Army seems to be envious of the Marine Corps and see the obvious benefits of the Osprey. They’ve had a good long look at the Osprey in action during the current conflicts so should have a good idea of how it has performed thus far. Remember, the Marine Corps was the first service with a sizable ground combat force inside Afghanistan, which is a land locked country. The Osprey had very little if anything to do with that, but the capability is there. An aircraft like this would go a long way to helping the army achieve the same capability. The Osprey was “supposed” to be a joint service program to begin with and the Army was funding a lot of it! They dropped out and the Marine took it over.

    The Osprey does everything that the Corps wants except carry vehicles. It’s only about 5 ft wide inside whereas a HMMWV is about 8 ft wide. Also it was supposed to replace the CH-46… it didn’t as of this post. You’re also gonna need more than one FOB, and fire support once you’ve reached the objective (HAVE WE NOT LEARNED ANY LESSONS?). This is one area where the Osprey has shown it’s limitations. So the Marines had to design a system around that problem. A tilt rotor CH-47 or CH-53 E should be the target size. But it seems that flying “that” much weight, that high and fast would require a huge aircraft with huge tilt rotors. You might as well be flying a C-130.