Bell was awarded a major US Army contract on Monday to be declared the winner of the FLRAA (Future Long Range Assault Aircraft) tender, a program intended to replace the versatile UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters starting in 2030.
The V-280 defeated a very innovative helicopter, the Defiant X, from Sikorsky, which bet on a rigid coaxial rotor technology and a rear pusher engine.
The US Army is looking for an aircraft that can replace the venerable Black Hawk offering greater speed and range. Therefore, the requirements barred a conventional helicopter solution. It needed to have a top speed of 250 knots (463 km/h) and a combat radius of at least 200 nautical miles (370 km), among other goals.
The V-280 was able to reach 305 knots and fly over 500 nautical miles, depending on the mission. Although reminiscent of the Osprey, the new tiltorotor has important differences such as the pivoting propellers while the engine remains in the same position, which has improved its safety and operational efficiency.
“I am excited to be part of this momentous day for our Army,” said Mr. Doug Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “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.”
“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.”
Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin, however, is considering filing an appeal to annul the decision. The company will have to request a briefing from the Army to have details on how the choice was made.
“We remain confident Defiant X is the transformational aircraft the US Army requires to accomplish its complex missions today and well into the future,” said Sikorsky and Boeing, which is partnering on this project.
Another Bell versus Sikorsky match
The FLRAA isn’t the only competition Bell and Sikorsky face. The two companies are also finalists in the FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) program, which aims to provide an escort and attack helicopter.
Again, Sikorsky bets on X2 technology, with the Raider X, while Bell was even more conservative when proposing the 360 Invictus helicopter. Both are still in prototype evaluation, with no deadline for announcing a decision.