2019 Surface Navy Association
Bell (a Textron company) is stepping up its internal R&D efforts to compete its V-247 VIGILANT offering for the US Marine Corps’ Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System Expeditionary (MUX) programme and compete the aircraft for other defence requirements.
MONCh viewed a full-scale V-247 mock-up at last fall’s Modern Day Marine (story here), “fully decked out,” to stimulate and generate military customer and industry feedback. With that mission complete, Todd Worden, Bell’s Senior Manager for Advanced Tiltrotor Systems and Military Business Development, reported his team has, “been working risk reduction activities on the aircraft that Bell is designing and trying to synchronize our schedules and timelines into what the Marines are publishing for their timelines.”
At a higher level, Bell continues to migrate its best-of-breed capabilities from its legacy V-22 tiltrotor and new technologies from its V-280 VALOR into a low-risk V-247 platform. MONCh readers are aware Bell is developing the V-280 as part of the Pentagon’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator air vehicle capability, which will produce requirements for capability set 3 of the Future Vertical Lift programme, intended to replace the AH-64 APACHE, UH-60 BLACKHAWK, AH-1 and other legacy-era aircraft.
As MUX will provide a runway independent programme with unmanned capability, “there’s still a lot of work to be done on the integration side, on the mission effectiveness side, for the Marine Corps embarking on these new missions,” Jason Hurst, Programme Manager for V-247, pointed out.
A huge differentiator among V-247 and other tiltrotors, is that while other aircraft were built for speed and range, VIGILANT brings in the loiter element. “We’re trying to make this longer persistence – eight-to-ten hours at 350 nm combat radius, and then we provide the maximum loiter time available once they get there,” Mr Hurst explained.
While V-247 is being designed to help the Marines close seven capability gaps including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; cargo replenishment; precision strike; and airborne early warning, the design mission surrounding the VIGILANT’s clean aircraft configuration was ISR. “The inherent flexibility of the tiltrotor platform is basically the power, enabling those other mission sets,” the community expert emphasised.
While Bell is not government-funded to build a V-247 flying platform, the company is focused on maturing and physically testing individual technologies, through risk reduction testing, simulation, wind-tunnel testing and other activities, of its mature design concept. Bell remains attentive for a yet-to-be published US Marine Corps announcement with details of a build for a mid-tier, VIGILANT-like prototype requirement, which will move the Bell V-247 concept beyond rigorous individual part testing and simulation. Mr Hurst noted Bell remains receptive to companies, US and non-US (within export and technology transfer laws), continuing to come forth and discuss their best-of-breed technologies and solutions for its V-247 enterprise. An initial, NAVAIR-issued broad area announcement to move the V-247 a bit closer to reality – by discussing the platform’s mission systems’ architectures – is also expected later this year. For its part, Bell will have its VIGILANT mock-up on exhibit at 2019 AAAA as well as Modern Day Marine at Quantico later this year. “We’re casting a wide net, to show the applicability of V-247 to meet the many converging requirements for long-range, high endurance UAVs, and in particular, when they don’t have near-by runway capabilities to support those,” Mr Hurst concluded.