Rotorcraft News

Bell Textron Outpaced Lockheed Martin-Boeing to Replace Black Hawk With Its V-280 Valor Tiltrotor !

Defiant X coaxial rotor blade platform By Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing is not the preferred choice for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) contract , as Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor won the Bid.   After years of development , prototyping and test flights , the U.S. Army has announced that Bell Textron’s Valor tiltrotor has won its FLRAA competition to be the successor to the aging UH-60 Black Hawk and a key component of the Army’s future force. Bell Textron is an American aerospace manufacturer with a significant manufacturing facility in Wichita.   “U.S. Army awards Bell @Textron  a massive contract for its helicopter of the future.” “The U.S. Army’s decision to award this contract to Bell Textron will directly benefit the workforce in Wichita and is a testament to the vital role of Kansans in our national security,” U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said.   Talking of the program, FLRAA is part of the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift initiative to replace a portion of its assault and utility helicopter fleet with the ultimate goal of replacing the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter , which has been used for over 40 years. Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor aircraft is scheduled to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk by 2030.     Bell Textron's  Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor was developed and tested as part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program that began in 2013. The V-280 progressed through design, manufacturing, and more than three years of rigorous flight testing that provided extensive data validating the technical and operational advantages of the aircraft for the long-range assault mission.   Quotes !   “We are honored that the U.S. Army has selected the Bell V-280 Valor as its next-generation assault aircraft,” said Scott C. Donnelly, Textron’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable and transformational weapon system to meet the Army’s mission requirements. We are excited to play an important role in the future of Army Aviation.”   Bell Textron's  Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor    “This is an exciting time for the U.S. Army, Bell, and Team Valor as we modernize the Army’s aviation capabilities for decades to come,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell. “Bell has a long history supporting Army Aviation and we are ready to equip Soldiers with the speed and range they need to compete and win using the most mature, reliable, and affordable high-performance long-range assault weapon system in the world.”   Douglas Bush, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology said , “I am excited to be part of this momentous day for our Army,” “The thoughtful and disciplined execution of the FLRAA program strategy will deliver the transformational capabilities we need to support the Joint force, strengthen deterrence and win in multi-domain operations.”   For the past several years, teams from Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing have been racing alongside each other for the high-profile contract, producing futuristic prototypes and logging flight hours. Army leaders were initially expected to announce the victor earlier this year but said they needed additional time to review the bids. Then on Nov. 21,   Sikorsky-Boeing's  Defiant X  coaxial rotor blade.   Bush told reporters a decision would be announced by the end of the calendar year, saying the delay was simply due to the necessary “quality control” and “due diligence” associated with a contract “this big.”   Bell Textron's Press release reads , This award builds on a decade of the V-280 Valor’s progress through design, manufacturing, and thorough testing to demonstrate that this aircraft will deliver on the FLRAA program requirements. Bell and its industry partners have systematically validated the V-280 aircraft and their modular open systems approach in collaboration with the Army. “For the past several years the Bell team demonstrated the exceptional operational capabilities, digital thread synergies, and platform affordability enhancements the V-280 provides,” said Keith Flail, executive vice president, Advanced Vertical Lift Systems at Bell. “Bell stands ready with our world-class manufacturing facilities to apply our nearly seven decades of tiltrotor expertise to deliver a modern FLRAA fleet to the Army.”   Competition was between Bell Textron's tiltrotor design, similar to the V-22 Osprey , used by the Marines, Special Operators and the U.S. Navy ; and the LM Sikorsky-Boeing's  Defiant X  coaxial rotor blade , a rotor blades stacking arrangement.   However , with this development ,  a protest from Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing can be seen in the near future and could potentially delay the Army on its quest to fielding the new FLRAA fleet around 2030. Given the magnitude of the FLRAA program, one should not be surprised to see fierce criticism in this line.     Going forward , FLRAA program initial contract will work on the weapon system design, sustainment, digital enterprise, manufacturing, systems integration, flight-testing, and airworthiness qualification.