Bell is Bullish on New Tiltrotors
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — Bell, a Textron company famous for its helicopters that have served worldwide since the 1950s, sees tiltrotors as prime to the future of rotary-wing military aviation.
The company teamed with Boeing for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor that serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force and soon the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Self-Defense Force, has flown a new tiltrotor and is developing another to meet the needs of the U.S. military.
The company’s new V-280 Valor incorporates “all the lessons of the V-22,” Steve Mathias, Bell’s vice president for Global Business Development, told Seapower at the recent Sea-Air-Space Exposition in National Harbor, Maryland.
The twin-rotor V-280, which first flew on Dec. 19, has accrued 19 flight hours as well as 75 hours on a run stand, Mathias said.
Unlike the V-22, only the rotors on the V-280 tilt rather than the engines and rotors, and the V-280 has a straight wing rather than a slightly swept wing. The V-280 also dispenses with the mid-wing gear box of the V-22, which reduces by 50 percent the cost and time to build the wing, he said.
The V-280 is designed to reach speeds of 280 knots and be able to hover at 6,000 feet on days with 95-degree temperatures, well in excess of Army requirements, he said, pointing out that the V-280 would be ideal as an armed escort for the V-22.
The V-280’s wing stows in 90 seconds.
Mathias said the V-280, being a fly-by-wire aircraft, could be optionally manned.
A candidate for mid-size version of Future Vertical lift requirement, production of a new rotorcraft would be planned for reaching Milestone C around the 2030 timeframe, but Mathias said the V-280 could be ready by 2025.
“If the requirement stays the same, we could enter EMD [engineering and manufacturing development] in 2019,” he said.
Mathias said that Bell also was developing the concept of an unmanned tiltrotor aircraft designed to operate from small footprints such as the helipad of a Navy destroyer. With a 350-nautical-mile radius, the V-247 Vigilant could perform the tasks of airborne early warning, anti-submarine warfare, V-22 escort, strike, surveillance and other missions. The V-247 could be a candidate for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Unmanned Expeditionary Capabilities (MUX) concept.
Mathias said that that Bell is “ready to meet any Marine Corps timeline” for MUX development.