Bell V-280 Valor Tilt-Rotor Prototype Receives Tactical Data Link And Performs Sling Load Tests

A screenshot from the Bell's video showing the V-280 prototype during the sling load tests. (Image credit: Bell).

The Bell V-280 Valor Next Generation Tilt Rotor Aircraft has been involved in the testing of a new Tactical Data Link and external cargo loads.

The first prototype of the V-280 Valor, registration N280BH, continues to carry out test flights to validate new equipment integration and new missions. The next generation tilt-rotor aircraft recently performed demonstrations at the Bell Flight Research Center in Arlington, TX, that included use of a newly installed Tactical Common Datalink (TCDL) from Team Valor member Lockheed Martin and completion of sling load sorties, to assess the ability of the aircraft to carry external cargo.

According to a company release, in the TCDL demonstrations, Bell showed the ability of the V-280 team to design, integrate and test new mission equipment capability. “During the initial testing, the team successfully transmitted information between the aircraft and the ground station including basic flight data such as airspeed, altitude, and attitude. TCDL is another operational capability being demonstrated on the platform because of its relevance to commanders as a method of supporting cross-domain fires. By employing on-board sensors and TCDL the V-280 showed it would be able to provide targeting information to enhance the lethality of precision long range weapons.”

“Additionally, the V-280 transmitted data collected by the Lockheed Martin Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) System that has been flying on the V-280 for nearly a year. This real-time transmission included video of the sling load cargo. This combination allowed pilots, crew, and supervisors to monitor the sling load demonstration as if looking through the bottom of the aircraft, whether on-board or on the ground, creating a common operations perspective.”

The video released by Bell included footage from the PDAS, a network of integrated sensors distributed around the aircraft linked to aircrew displays via an open-architecture processor (OAP). PDAS provides real-time, multi-spectral fused imagery to head-tracked, high-resolution helmet-mounted displays or the MFD (Multi-Function Display) so that the crew members can monitor the load as it is hooked up.

The sling load demonstration consisted in a single sortie, during which the team performed multiple cargo lifts to demonstrate the procedure and coordination of ground crew, aircraft, crew chief, pilots and the behaviour of the loads for the V-280.

The new capability demos were announced on the third anniversary of the V-280’s first flight. The prototype flew for the first time on Dec. 18, 2017, at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center. Back then, both the images and the footage released by Bell Helicopter were doctored to hide some details of the Valor’s T64-GE-419 tilting gearbox design: unlike the V-22‘s engines that rotate along with the gearboxes, in the V-280, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates. The tilting gearbox wasn’t blurred this time.

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 (that have just celebrated its 40th anniversary) and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. It will have a crew of 4 (including two pilots) and will be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. Its cruising speed will be 280 knots (hence the designation V-280) and its top speed can be in excess of 300 knots, as demonstrated during It’s designed for a range of 2,100 nautical miles and an effective combat range of 500 to 800 NM 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.

H/T to Steve Fortson for the heads up.

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.