Futuristic V-280 Not Advanced Enough to Replace the Osprey: AFSOC Commander

Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft completes the maiden flight
Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft completes the maiden flight at the company's Amarillo, Texas, facility. (Bell Helicopter photo)

The commander of Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday that he's not interested in acquiring the prototype tiltrotor aircraft being evaluated in the Army's Future Vertical Lift effort as a potential replacement for the CV-22 Osprey.

Army modernization officials are evaluating two experimental aircraft under FVL for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA: the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 coaxial-rotor Defiant helicopter prototype and Bell Textron's V-280 Valor tiltrotor helicopter prototype.

The Army hopes to select one design to replace the venerable UH-60 Black Hawk, and go into full-rate production by 2030.

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But even if the Army does select the tiltrotor V-280, AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. James Slife said the Valor is not advanced enough to replace the CV-22, the Air Force special operations variant of the V-22 tiltrotor transport aircraft.

"I don't see the V-280 as the replacement for the V-22," Slife told reporters at the Association of the Air Force's Air & Space Symposium.

"When the time comes for a follow-on to the V-22, I think we are looking ... for a generation beyond kind of tiltrotor technology," said Slife, who added later that AFSOC is looking for an aircraft that will provide speeds closer to "jet-like" performance. "We are not just looking at marginal improvement in speed and range and reliability. We are looking at a generational movement for vertical takeoff and landing capability going into the future."

Slife did say that U.S. Special Operations Command will likely be interested in whichever prototype the Army selects for its new FLRAA design, since SOCOM is committed to Army helicopter aviation under FVL.

"The Air Force is not part of the Future Vertical Lift program, and that is not the type of technology I think we are going to be eventually looking for to replace the V-22," Slife said.

He would not go into specific details, but said "there are a number of technology and drive system proposals out there that look like they may be within the realm of possibility, that could provide a generational step ahead in technology to get us up into jet-speed kind of capability."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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