In a game changing decision that signals the arrival of tilt-rotors in place of helicopters, the U.S. Army announced the selection of the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft to replace its fleet of Black Hawk choppers.
As per reports, the initial contract is worth $232 million, and the initial production of helicopters could be worth $7.1 billion. Ultimately, the contract is potentially worth around $70 billion over the years, the Army told reporters on Monday evening.
This is the largest helicopter award in 40 years. The new Bell rotorcraft will replace roughly 2,000 Black Hawks and around 1,200 Apaches around 2030.
On Dec 5, Bell Textron Inc. confirmed that it won development contract for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. The award is based on Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor that 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.
The initial contract refines the weapon system design, sustainment, digital enterprise, manufacturing, systems integration, flight-testing, and airworthiness qualification.
Bell’s V-280 beat out Lockheed Martin-Boeing team’s Defiant X for the massive contract. The latter features coaxial rotor blades. Both aircraft were designed to fit into the same footprint as a Black Hawk.
The V-280 Valor acts as a helicopter when taking off or landing, but in the air can reconfigure itself to fly faster than traditional helicopters. The Navy wanted the FLRAA to be capable of traveling roughly 2,440 nautical miles (or 2,810 miles) without refueling.