Bell Unveils "3rd Gen" Tiltrotor for JMR/FVL

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Bell has unveiled the 280kt tiltrotor it is offering to replace US Army UH-60 Black Hawks beginning around 2035 -- and offering alone now it has been jilted by V-22 partner Boeing in favor of Sikorsky and a 230kt compound helicopter.

FVL Medium utility variant (Concept: Bell Helicopter)

Bell is calling its V-280 Valor a "third-generation" tiltrotor, although it is a bit vague on exactly what it means by third generation. It is clear on the earlier generations: first the XV-3 and XV-15 with mechanical flight controls; and second the V-22 (and BA609, now AW609) with digital fly-by-wire.

What makes the V-280 the third generation is less clear-cut, but appears to involve applying a range of technologies to improve all the "ilities" that have brought criticism to tiltrotors in general and the V-22 specifically - affordability (and complexity), agility, reliability and sustainability.

FVL Medium attack variant (Concept: Bell Helicopter)

Those technologies include next-generation FBW (drawing on Bell's 525 Relentless commercial helicopter); "high-flapping" proprotors providing greater pitch and yaw control power for agility in vertical-flight mode at low airspeed; advanced blades; lower proprotor disk loading and downwash velocities compared with the V-22; and a lightweight, lower-cost "large-cell carbon core" composite wing.

The V-280 is being proposed for the Army's planned Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Medium program, and Bell has submitted a proposal to fly a near full-scale flight demonstrator in 2017 under the Joint Multi-Role technology demonstration. Its V-22 partner Boeing is now teamed with Sikorsky to offer a coaxial-rotor X2 Technology design for JMR.

A notable feature of Bell's concept for the FVL Medium utility variant to replace the Black Hawk -- the engines do not tilt with the proprotors, as they do on the V-22. This is to allow ingress and egress to the side-opening doors (the V-22 has a rear ramp) and clear fields of fire for the door gunners. And, in addition to the V tail, the wing has no forward sweep.

The Army wants commonality and, at a minimum, would like to use the same technologies in an attack variant of the FVL Medium to replace the Apache. Bell's concept (above) shows an attack variant of the V-280 with an internal weapons bay under the fuselage.

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