Side View Of The First Bell V-280 Valor Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Prototype

From this point of view it appears even more futuristic….

As reported yesterday, the first prototype of V-280 Valor, Bell’s candidate to the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD), in the running to replace the service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters as part of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, was spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center attached to an engine test stand in preparation for the engine tests required ahead of its first flight scheduled next month.

In this post you can see a photograph, submitted by a source who wishes to remain anonymous, that provides a side view of the V-280 prototype, registered N280BH.

Along with the retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant fly by wire control system, and a V-tail configuration, the main V-280 feature is the futuristic tilting gearbox design where 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. In this way, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates whereas the engines do not. Moreover, a driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single engine in case of engine loss.

Side view of the V-280 prototype clearly visible outside Bell Helicopter/Textron Plant in Amarillo, Texas.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. U.S. military air superiority remains unchallenged. Russia and China can only look on with envy. This is a vast improvement over the Osprey, especially given the lessened chance of brownouts and heat blast during landing. Meanwhile, in Russia, they are still stuck with the Mi-8/17. Russian aeronautics falls further and further behind. So does China.

    • This is a transport helicopter, it doesn’t have anything to do with air superiority. There’s a real question whether we even need to speed that such an aircraft will have for the vast majority of missions. This will certainly be more expensive than a Black Hawk. I think it’s a pretty fair question whether we need to buy such a vehicle.

      Btw, China isn’t really interested in taking us on head-on. What they are interested in is keeping us away from their area of operations. And you no what, they’ve developed capabilities and forces to do just that, including two new stealth fighters. Will they be as effective as the F-22? Probably not, but they’ll be able to put a lot more of them in the air.

      • You no what? LOL You know what? I think you need a little more time in school. LOL
        The unit cost of these TILT ROTORS (they are not helicopters) will be around 25 million. They achieve twice the speed and twice the range and carry the same payload as the 45 year old Blackhawk, which costs 12-17 million. They are FAR SUPERIOR, and the Marine corps can’t stop talking about how much better tilt rotors are than helicopters. But hey, you sound like you know your stuff.
        Say hi to your leader Xi, you commie idiot.

        • So they only cost TWICE as much? Wow! What a bargain. It looks like maybe you should do some homework on how helicopters are used. Sure, there are missions where that speed and range can be helpful. But the real question is at what cost? And do we really need to plan on replacing all of our Blackhawks with that capability.

          Btw, you can stuff your uniformed insults.

  2. One thing: this isn’t even a prototype. It’s just a “demonstrator” (as is the SB-1, if it ever flies). If you look at Bell’s illustrations of production versions, they’re noticeably different, especially the tails.

    After the Technology Demonstration, Army may start a competition sometime around 2020 for FVL which will involve true prototypes from a number of bidders. From there, around 2024-2525 a vehicle may be selected, which would then go through another seven years or so of development before anything actually enters service. This unnecessarily long process may insure that nothing actually enters service.

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