Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor next-generation tiltrotor prototype made its first flight on December 18 from the company's facility in Amarillo, Texas. The V-280 program is part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative, a science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. It combines the resources of Bell, Lockheed Martin, GE, Moog, IAI, TRU Simulation & Training, Astronics, Eaton, GKN Aerospace, Lord, Meggitt and Spirit AeroSystems.
“The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake,” said Bell CEO Mitch Snyder. “I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight.”
According to the DoD, the FVL program is designed to find a replacement for the Army’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and the Bell UH-1 operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. The program ultimately could result in deliveries of as many as 4,000 aircraft by 2030 under a contract potentially worth $100 billion and include significant foreign military sales.
Bell said the V-280 can carry 14 passengers and four crew and eliminates the V-22's rear loading ramp in favor of six-foot-wide fuselage doors under the wings. The tiltrotor provides twice the speed and range of conventional helicopters. Specifications include a maximum speed of 280 knots; combat range of 500 to 800 nm; maximum self-deployable range of more than 2,100 nm; and more than 13,000 pounds of useful load. It features fly-by-wire flight controls and a pair of GE Aviation T64-GE-419 turboshaft engines.