Bell Textron demonstrated its V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft to U.S. Army officials during an event in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas earlier this month.
The event was also attended by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
The demo was part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration, or JMR-TD, where Bell, is competing with the duo of Sikorsky and Boeing. The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant compound helicopter (with coaxial rotors) is expected to flex its muscles and show its airlift capabilities next month at Sikorsky’s facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The two teams will compete for the Army’s new Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, program seeking to replace the legacy UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter fleet. This program is under the larger Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program seeking to develop a family of military helicopters to replace the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, and OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.
“The V-280 and flight test program teams’ performances have gone above and beyond expectation,” said Keith Flail, vice president of Advanced Vertical Lift Systems at Bell. “Our team of defense-aerospace technology and manufacturing experts demonstrated the ability to deliver a high-performance aircraft on schedule that will revolutionize U.S. military vertical lift capability. We are very proud of this track record and look forward to competing for the U.S. Army FLRAA program.”
Once selected, the FLRAA aircraft will need to maintain 100% maximum continuous power, medical evacuation capabilities, and per guidelines, have the ability to perform a 500-foot per minute vertical rate of climb. Other advancements are the wherewithal to soar at 6,000 feet in 95-degree heat, with up to 12 passengers and for roughly 1,725 nautical miles one-way without refueling. Overall velocity is another precondition, as the FLRAA has been tasked to clock with an objective cruise speed of 280 knots, or roughly 320 mph.
Although not an official FLRAA submission, the Valor or a similar design, is likely to be submitted by Bell.
Demoed earlier this month, the Valor is a vertical-lift helicopter fresh off a successful autonomous test flight in December at the company’s Arlington, Texas, research center. That flight was also the two-year anniversary of its first flight. Since its initial takeoff, the Valor has logged more than 160 flight hours in the air.
However, pilots stayed aboard during the autonomous movements to steer clear of possible mishaps. During the two-hour flight in December, the tiltrotor aircraft conducted two sorties and carried out all of its unmanned flight goals. The two pilots intervened in between autonomous events. Bell officials have not scheduled any test flights for an uninterrupted autonomous flight, rather than the optionally-manned demonstration, like with the Valor.
In the most recent demo, the Valor flew at speeds around 200 knots, or 230 mph. It also showcased various vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) abilities that make it runway independent, as well as demonstrations of the power that the aircraft is capable of getting rapid ingress and egress from an objective area. Finally, it demonstrated a number of engineering-based maneuvers and digital flight controls that make the aircraft exceptionally agile.
2019 milestones of Team Valor and the V-280 program team include:
• Speed > 300 kts
• Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE) and 6,000 feet altitude at 95º F
• Low speed agility to meet the Army’s Level 1 Handling Qualities requirements
• Executed numerous, consecutive multi-sortie days of flight operations
• Test flights with Army pilots
In addition to developing and fielding the FLRAA, a new Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA, is lined up to succeed the Army’s AH-64 Apache helicopter fleet.