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Bell V-280 Valor

United States (2020)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator.

 Entry last updated on 1/3/2018; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Bell V-280 Valor  
Picture of Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator
Picture of Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator Picture of Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology DemonstratorPicture of Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator

The Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor demonstrator will be marketed to the U.S. Army for its Future Vertical Lift program.

Bell Helicopters is forging their 3rd Generation Tiltrotor concept for marketing to the United States Army and its Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. Convinced that the near-future battlefield will require increased hauling capabilities as well as top flight speeds, Bell has gone the traditional route with its V-280 Valor tiltrotor proposal, utilizing elements and experience in having developed the now in-service Bell V-22 "Osprey" series currently at the frontlines in Afghanistan and Iraq. 1st Generation Tiltrotor is applied to early experimental forms such as the XV-3 while the V-22 receives the 2nd Generation Tiltrotor classification.

The original V-22 combined the capabilities of a traditional rotary-wing system (helicopter) with that of a fixed-wing aircraft. This was made possible through use of twin three-bladed rotors fitted to variable-position engine nacelles found at the ends of a high-mounted wing spar. The fuselage was held under the wing with the empennage raised to allow for a powered door. The flight deck was concentrated to the front of the vehicle with the cargo hold/passenger cabin taking up the rest of the internal volume. The concept, after a rough start due to technical issues, eventually proved sound and allowed for maximum speeds of up to 315 miles per hour while operating at 15,000 feet altitude. Approximately 160 V-22s have been produced to date (2013) through the joint Bell Boeing venture.

The V-280 represents a further development of the same concept, turboshafts fitted to wingtip engine nacelles with full rotor tilting capabilities to allow for Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), hovering or straight line flight. However, the newer design incorporates fixed engine nacelles that sport tilting drive and three-bladed rotor systems - a major departure from the wholly tilting nacelles of the V-22. This new arrangement, therefore, would decrease the threat posed to ground personnel around the aircraft such as maintenance personnel or those infantry embarking/disembarking by way of two sliding fuselage doors. The concept includes a fuselage design akin to the competing Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk mated to a low empennage mounting two outward canted vertical fins (which would preclude use of a rear loading ramp as in the V-22). The fuselage sports a downward-sloping nose for excellent vision out of the cockpit for the two pilots while the passenger cabin is lined with large rectangular vision ports. The undercarriage - consisting of two single-wheeled landing gear legs and a twin-wheeled tail unit - would be retractable, aiding in the aircraft's aerodynamic efficiency.

Competitors to such tiltrotor designs are the hybrid "compound" helicopters which field a conventional mast-mounted main rotor along with a pair of fixed "puller" rotors along the fuselage sides (or perhaps a single "pusher" rotor at the tail unit). Both concepts adequately solve the VTOL and straight line flight issues and evolve traditional helicopter design through both the promise of increased speed and range which, in turn, serve to improve tactical value in a theater of war. The US Army is looking for a vehicle reaching 230 knots (265 mph) to which the V-280, according to early Bell estimates, reaches the 280 knot (322 mph) range. Bell suggests that the V-280 could also manage a 2,100 nautical mile (2,417 mile) range allowing it access to a majority of existing, or those possible, warzones such as Afghanistan (approx. 90% coverage) and North Korea (100% coverage). This would allow the US Army to operate without the need to call in a major transport.
Picture of the Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator
Picture of the Bell V-280 Valor 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator

The V-280 Valor concept was officially debuted at the 2013 Army Aviation Association of American gathering in Fort Worth, Texas in early April. Bell marketing material also hints at an armed gunship variant for the escort role, this version outfitted with an internal fuselage bay fielding four laser-guided bombs and outboard pylons mounting 19-shot laser-guided rockets.

Bell engineers intend to implement several cost saving measures into the V-280 design including a single-piece carbon wing assembly, efficient turboshaft engines and rotor blades and improved hover capabilities. Another challenge in the V-280 design as it exists today would remain in delivering a fixed-wing tiltrotor via long-range transport to hotspots involving American forces. Such an endeavor would require full removal of the wing and engines element(s).

In any case, the V-280 - as with its compound helicopter competitors - remains a promising venture for Bell and may very well advance the modern battlefield to an extent. Bell markets the V-280 on excellent endurance (twice that of the existing UH-60 Black Hawk line, the current US Army workhorse), improved safety features concerning tiltrotor designs (V-22 development suffered notable casualties on several occasions) and improved hovering performance at altitude.

Provided dimensions and specifications are estimated and subject to change with program evolution.

April 2016 - The basic framework of the V-280 fuselage is in place at the Bell factory. The aircraft underwent wing mating and its progress is promising to date.

December 2016 - Systems power testing was undertaken on the V-280 prototype.

February 2017 - A prototype V-280 is set to begin ground testing. A first-flight is scheduled for September 2017.

September 2017 - It was announced that the first V-280 prototype was being prepped for ground runs at Bell Helicopter's Amarillo (Texas) plant. First flights will involve the airframe being tethered. A true, untethered first-flight is scheduled for sometime in October 2017.

December 2017 - It was announced by Bell that the V-280 Valor tilt-rotor achieved its first-flight on December 18th, 2017.
Bell V-280 Valor Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United States
Year: 2020
Status: In-Development
Type: 3rd Generation Tiltrotor Technology Demonstrator
Manufacturer(s): Bell Helicopter Textron - USA
Production: 1
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 65.62 ft (20 m)
Width: 85.30 ft (26.00 m)
Height: 22.97 ft (7.00 m)
Empty Weight: 33,069 lb (15,000 kg)
MTOW: 57,320 lb (26,000 kg)

Installed Power
2 x Turboshaft engines with tilting three-bladed main rotor and drive units.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 265 mph (426 kph; 230 kts)
Maximum Range: 2,485 mi (4,000 km; 2,160 nm)
Service Ceiling: 15,092 ft (4,600 m; 2.86 mi)

2 x 7.62mm General Purpose or 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun(s) on pintle mounts at fuselage doors.

OPTIONAL (proposed):
4 x Conventional or laser-guided drop bombs in internal fuselage bay.
2 x 7-shot / 19-shot conentional or laser-guided rocket pods OR 2 x Cannon pods at side fuselage hardpoints.
1 x 20mm fixed, forward-firing cannon under nose

Operators List
United States (possible)

Series Model Variants
• V-280 "Valor" - Base Model Designation

Supported Weapon Systems
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Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft cannon pod
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft guided bomb munition

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