Bell Helicopter has mated the wing to the fuselage of its tilt-rotor V-280 Valor entrant in the competition to replace the Black Hawk helicopter as part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.
“This is a major milestone,” Lisa Atherton, executive vice president of Military Business Development for Bell Helicopter, said in a statement on the prototype that Bell calls the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD).
“The V-280 wing, nacelles and fuselage are now assembled into the aircraft we’ve designed as the next generation tilt-rotor,” Atherton said of the work done at Bell’s aircraft assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. “We are excited and counting down to the first flight in 2017,” Atherton said.
The V-280 Valor is Bell’s bid to meet the Army’s requirement for a for a mid-sized, next-generation rotorcraft with twice the speed and range of a conventional helicopter to replace the Black Hawks in the 2020s or 2030s.
Bell’s competition comes from the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, a more conventional helicopter with a pusher-prop for added speed. Sikorsky-Boeing officials also maintain that the Defiant is on track for its first flight next year.
Bell has sought to overcome the Army’s traditional opposition to tilt-rotor aircraft by citing its experience with the V-22 Osprey, which now has more than 300,000 operational flight hours.
The Army opted out when the Marine Corps decided to buy the Ospreys, which were designed in the 1980s. The Ospreys have since become operational with the Air Force Special Operations Command and will soon be part of the Navy for a variety of missions.
With the V-280 Valor, Bell also had to meet the Army’s long-time preference for side doors on its rotorcraft, as opposed to the rear ramp of the Ospreys
To accommodate side doors, the V-280 Valor’s rotors tilt but not the engines. On the Ospreys, both the rotors and the engines tilt.
Bell Helicopter's wing readies to be attached to the fuselage of its V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter in April 2016 at the company's aircraft assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. (Bell photo)
Bell Helicopter's wing is lowered to be attached to the fuselage of its V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter in April 2016 at the company's aircraft assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. (Bell photo)