US Army officials joined industry leaders last week to get a closer look at cutting-edge capabilities for future vertical lift ahead of the fiscal year 2030 goal to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Developers from Bell Textron, a Texas-based aerospace manufacturer, demoed their part-aircraft, part-helicopter Bell V-280 Valor to leaders who will ultimately choose the force’s newest chopper. In addition to the Valor, another helo mock-up, the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, is expected to flex its muscles and show further airlift capabilities next month at Sikorsky’s facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The demo was part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) where Bell, along with the duo of Sikorsky and Boeing, have respectively put together aircraft to provide data. JMR-TD is an acquisitions push designated as an Army Capability Enabler (ACE) with investments made by industry partners. Whichever aircraft is eventually favored as the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, will be required to have speed and power as well as blending airplane-like speeds with helicopter-like maneuverability.
Once selected, the aircraft will need to maintain 100% maximum continuous power, medical evacuation capabilities, and per guidelines, have the ability to perform a 500-foot per minute vertical rate of climb. Other advancements Soldiers can count on, according to officials, is the wherewithal to soar at 6,000 feet in 95-degree heat, with up to 12 passengers and for roughly 1,725 nautical miles one-way without refueling. Overall velocity is another precondition, as the FLAA has been tasked to clock with an objective cruise speed of 280 knots, or roughly 320 mph.
Although not an official FLRAA submission, the Valor or a similar design, is likely to be submitted by Bell. Demoed last week, the Valor is a vertical-lift helicopter fresh off a successful autonomous test flight in December at the company’s Arlington, Texas, research center. That flight was also the two-year anniversary of its first flight. Since its initial takeoff, the Valor has logged more than 160 flight hours in the air. However, pilots stayed aboard during the autonomous movements to steer clear of possible mishaps. During the two-hour flight in December, the tiltrotor aircraft conducted two sorties and carried out all of its unmanned flight goals.