The US Army has announced its selection of the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft for its Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) requirement.
The V-280 was selected ahead of a joint Sikorsky and Boeing effort offering the Defiant-X coaxial/compound rotorcraft, a development of its SB>1 Defiant prototype. The down-select follows a Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration, a two-phased competitive development and risk-reduction program where prototypes of both aircraft were flown by company and US Army pilots, and the 2021 release of an RFP.
“This down-select represents a strategic pivot for Army Aviation to the transformational speed and range our Army needs to dominate future battlefields,” US Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team director, Maj Gen Walter Rugen said in a 5 December release. “The prototyping and risk-reduction efforts allowed the Army to significantly reduce the time needed to get to today’s announcement.”
The FLRAA is part of the US Army’s wider Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. FLRAA was initiated in 2019 to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk in the battlefield assault role, and the requirement is seeking an aircraft which has twice the speed and much more range of the Black Hawk while retaining the Black Hawk’s footprint.
The V-280’s tilting propellor hubs are are a development of the larger V-22 Osprey’s concept (where the whole engine tilts), and combines the ability to hover and land in austere locations, with a forward airspeed of up to 300 knots and combat range of up to 1,500km.
Another element of FVL, the US Army is expected to decide next year the winner of its Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program for which Bell has teamed with Boeing to offer the 360 Invictus helicopter, and Sikorsky has bid its coaxial/compound Raider-X concept. The Bell 360 is yet to fly due to delays in supplying the engines specified by the US Army, while the Raider-X has been flying for several years in prototype form.