Bell Helicopters has completed first flight of the V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft,which is a contender for U.S. Army's Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk replacement.
With its tiltrotor capability, the V-280 combines the cruising speed of a turboprop aircraft and the Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) ability of a helicopter.
Details about the first flight were not released by Bell Helicopters, but video and picture released indicate it was rather a very low altitude hover, and did not involve forward flight by rotating the rotors.
Unlike the larger Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, one of the unique feature of the Valor is only the drive shaft and rotors rotate 90 degree, and the engines remain static.
This key drive shaft system continues to be blurred by Bell, in videos and images in order to conceal the new technology. The first flight video released and earlier ground testing images exposing the gear system has been blurred.
The prototype is initially powered by two General Electric T64 turboshaft engiens, but will get a new advanced engine for service entry.
JUST IN: Bell V-280 Valor first flight footage.— Bell Helicopter (@BellHelicopter) December 18, 2017
This milestone represents exceptional progress on the V-280 development program and brings Bell Helicopter one step closer to creating the next generation of vertical lift aircraft for the U.S. military. pic.twitter.com/8isQNPm3Uf
The V-280 can achieve a cruise speed of 280 KTAS, twice that of present helicopters, and a 500-800 nm combat range. Payload capacity is 12,000 lbs while maximum sling load is 10,500 lb.
The Bell V-280 Valor program is part of the Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative, which is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense's Future Vertical Lift program.
The V-280 program brings together the engineering resources and industrial capabilities of Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, GE, Moog, IAI, TRU Simulation & Training, Astronics, Eaton, GKN Aerospace, Lord, Meggitt and Spirit AeroSystems—collectively referred to as Team Valor.
Sikorsky has partnered with Boeing to develop the SB-1 Defiant coaxial rotor helicopter to compete for the JMR-TD, whose first flight is expected in 2018.