Here Are The First Images Of The First Bell V-280 Valor Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Prototype

Aug 30 2017 - 9 Comments

Bell V-280 Valor is a third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft being developed by Bell Helicopter for the United States Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. And here is the first demonstrator aircraft being readied for its maiden flight.

The V-280 Valor is Bell’s submission for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) phase, the technology demonstration precursor to Future Vertical Lift (FVL), a replacement for the service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.

The V-280 will have a crew of 4 (including two pilots) and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. Its cruising speed will be 280 knots (hence the designation V-280) and its top speed will be 300 kts. It’s designed for a range of 2,100 nautical miles and an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi although the Army’s requirements for the demonstrator call for hot and high hover performance (at 6,000 feet and 95 F), and the ability to self-deploy 2,100 nautical miles at a speed of at least 230 knots.

Featuring a triple-redundant flight-by-wire Flight Control System and cutting edge avionics, the first prototype of the next generation helicopter is expected to perform its first flight in the next few months. On Aug. 30, what looks like a 100 percent complete aircraft, sporting the registration N280BH, was spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center (where the demonstrator aircraft began ground vibration testing with a 95 percent complete helicopter back in February 2017): the Valor is probably being prepared for engine tests ahead of its maiden flight (planned for Sept. 2017).

The T64-GE-419 engines and gearboxes in the nacelles are clearly visible in the interesting images in this post obtained from a short video filmed by our friend Steve Douglass. Interestingly, unlike the V-22’s engines, that rotate with the gearboxes, in the V-280, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates. According to Bell “The output shaft is connected to the drive system through a spiral bevel gearbox that transfers power to the fixed gearbox and proprotor gearbox, which rotates on two big spherical bearings driven by a conversion actuator mechanism.” The Valor’s tilting gearbox design vastly simplifies the Osprey’s complex hydro-mechanical clockwork required for the tiltrotor action.

N280BH at Amarillo is being prepared for engine tests.

The U.S. Army plans to field distinct platforms: a utility helicopter and an attack helicopter. For this reason, a variant, dubbed AV-280, is expected to carry rocket, missiles and also small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) forward or aft with no rotor interference.

Noteworthy, also spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center recently is the first V-22 Osprey for Japan.

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  • phuzz

    Blosprey.

  • I2eboot

    It might look better in person or a picture that isn’t taken with a super long lens from a couple miles away like this one

  • InklingBooks

    Quote: “but that’s one ugly helicopter….”

    True, but I’m one of those who think that, at least in general, military aircraft and vehicles should look ugly, so they scare the socks off the enemy. The F-4 Phantom, for instance, is pure meanness. One of my criticisms of the F-35 is that it isn’t scary. It’s a “mommy plane.”

    This competition is good news. I supported the controversial and somewhat flawed V-22 Osprey because the idea for a tilt-rotor aircraft is a good one and we needed to start somewhere. It looks like the follow-up designs will be much better. It’s quite interesting the the Army sees this competition not as an addition to helicopters but as replacing them.

    It’s also good news that we’re selling Ospreys to Japan. The stronger our allies are, the stronger we are and that also spreads the costs around. It’s also good that countries that can’t afford full-sized carriers can at least afford an aircraft that can be seaborne with more than helicopter abilities. I wonder how good a tilt-rotor aircraft would be in anti-submarine warfare.

  • Switawi

    “The output shaft is connected to the drive system through a spiral bevel gearbox that transfers power to the fixed gearbox and proprotor gearbox, which rotates on two big spherical bearings driven by a conversion actuator mechanism.”

    As an engineering geek I would love to see those inner workings.

  • McPosterdoor

    Yeah and the Sea Stallion is Miranda Kerr. The uglier the better, we’re not taking them to prom.

    http://cdn.airplane-pictures.net/images/uploaded-images/2011/10/16/162731.jpg

  • I2eboot
  • veej7485

    agreed, but its not a helicopter…

  • Jeff

    How is this “third generation”? It’s the third tiltrotor after the V-22 and XV-15 and it’s newer than them, but is it really an entirely new generation compared to the Osprey? If fighters are just now 5th-generation after 100 years of fighter aircraft, I find it hard to believe that the V-280 is already 3rd-generation. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

  • El Kabong

    Oh, the intakes weren’t what I was looking at, it was all those exposed lines, wires and driveline components.

    Here’s to hoping someone looks at it from a maintainability POV.