Burgeoning, concurrent efforts to invest in autonomy capability for a number of platforms
The V-247 VIGILANT is Bell’s entry for the anticipated US Marine Corps’ (USMC) MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) UAS Expeditionary (MUX) Program of Record. The MUX programme is the service’s effort to obtain a high-end UAV capability for a tougher and more technical fight than the low-intensity conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that dominated the USMC outlook for the last 17 years.
The US Navy’s NAVAIR PMA-266 has released a request for information for MUX. “Bell is working to provide a response by the deadline of this 7 May. The USMC is Bell’s current focus for the V-247 VIGILANT, however, there are many aspects in the V-247’s design and capability, including its expeditionary design, runway independence, speed, range, and payload that make the V-247 a solution that compliments Future Vertical Lift requirements for the joint forces,” Todd Worden, Senior Business Development Manager at Bell, told MONCh.
Of significance, Mr. Worden added: “Bell is also open to discussing the V-247 with potential international customers.”
The V-247 VIGILANT has moved passed conceptual design. The Bell team is now working through the preliminary design of the aircraft and has targeted 13,000lbs (5,897kg) of useful load that the USMC will be able to manage with a mix of fuel, munitions, and modular payloads. The corporate executive added: “The V-247 VIGILANT is anticipated to loiter as speeds under 200kts, cruise at 240kts, and dash at speeds greater than 300 knots.”
Asked to share plans to expand the V-247’s mission packages, in particular weaponising the platform, and furnishing a more robust ISR package, it was pointed out the V-247 VIGILANT will include and open system architecture combined with a modular payload system that will provide the USMC with the ability to integrate new sensors, weapons systems, and payload packages quickly. “As an initial capability, Bell will integrate an ISR sensor and weapons capability to enable rapid mission experimentation with the platform earlier in the programme. The ability then to add additional pods, sensors, and weapons to satisfy the MUX capability needs, can be integration with minimal effort,” Mr. Worden revealed.
Selecting the industry team for this project remains a work in progress, as, “Bell is working with industry to identify teammates as we move forward with the design of the V-247 VIGILANT,” Mr. Worden remarked.
With the Bell V-247 VIGILANT in the preliminary design phase, the company’s participation in public events will consist of conferences, trade shows and US government industry events, with no formal customer demonstrations or like activities planned.
Bell’s V-247 activities are one of the company’s burgeoning, concurrent efforts to invest in autonomy capability for a number of platforms. Mr. Worden pointed out: “Our V-280 VALOR will demonstrate autonomous capability in the future, our innovation group is developing a number of unmanned programmes for both military and civil applications that further grow our autonomous capabilities. The Bell V-247 VIGILANT will leverage this investment and will meet the USMC requirements for interoperability with manned and unmanned platforms.”