During AUSA 2017 in Washington DC, Bell Helicopter presented an interactive mock-up of the V-280 VALOR next-generation tiltrotor
Bell Helicopter, the company who co-designed the V-22 OSPREY tilt-rotor together with Boeing, has developed the V-280 VALOR as an answer to the US Army’s requirement for the joint multi-role demonstrator (JMR-TD), which will later be transformed into the FVL (Future Vertical Lift) modernisation programme (the US Army is expected to begin its FLV Program of Record in 2019).
It is intended to bring to the battlefield a new generation of helicopters as replacements of current platforms, including the combat AH-64 APACHE and utility UH-60 BLACK HAWK helicopters. The replacement programme is aimed at replacing existing fleets (US Army’s UH-60 and USMC’s UH-1) as early as the early 2030s. V-280 could reach initial production by 2025/2026 and initial operating capability before 2030.
Other companies involved in TEAM VALOR, as it is called by Bell Helicopter, that serve as prime contractors, include Lockheed Martin (integrated avionics, cockpit, sensors, equipment packages and mission systems), MOOG (flight control computer and actuators), Spirit AeroSystems (composite fuselage), IAI (nacelle structures and seats), General Electric Aviation (engines), GKN Aerospace (V-tail structure and control surfaces), TRU (simulation and training systems), Eaton Corporation (hydraulic systems), Meggitt (fuel system), LORD (elastomerics) and Astronics Corporation (electrical systems).
The V-280 will have a combat range of 500-800nm (926-1,482km) and a cruise speed of 520km/h. Its useful load is 5,450kg and its sling load 4,760 kilogrammes. Bell Helicopter does not foresee a commercial derivative of the V-280.
Although the V-280 looks very similar to the V-22, there are some major differences between them. Compared to the OSPREY, the VALOR’s engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. Furthermore, the V-22 only has an aft ramp, while the V-280 is equipped with two large (1.8m wide) side doors for easy rapid ingress and egress. At the same time, the new design eliminates the down-facing turbine exhaust. According to Bell Helicopter, the V-280 will have a crew of four (two pilots and two crew chiefs) and will be capable of transporting up to 14 troops (compared to the 24-32 troops carried by the V-22). The aircraft will meet the 2,100nm requirements by carrying extra fuel instead of cargo/passengers. The V-280 tilt-rotor would cost about the same as the AH-64 APACHE – roughly $35 million.
Dr. Robert Czulda