Textron’s Bell has won a US Army competition to build a long-range air vehicle. This is the largest renewal of the American combat helicopter fleet in the last 40 years.
The Pentagon plans to replace about 2,000 Black Hawk utility helicopters and about 1,200 Apache attack helicopters by 2030. The V-280 Valor tiltrotor will not replace all helicopters in service with the army, but will take on a significant part of their tasks.
In accordance with the contract, the vehicle must cover more than 4,500 km without refueling and be maneuverable enough to quickly respond to combat situations in hot spots.
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The engineering and manufacturing development required to fulfill the contract, as well as the primary production phase, can cost approximately $7 billion. The purchase of a complete set of tiltrotor aircraft and the costs associated with maintenance throughout the entire operating life can cost $70 billion.
The US Army has not bought any new large helicopters since the 1980s, and numerous attempts to upgrade the fleet have failed for various reasons. For example, the procurement service canceled the purchase of Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopters in 2004, having spent about $7 billion on its development.
Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche
Two aircraft participated in the competition: tiltrotor Bell V-280 Valor and Defiant X from Sikorsky and Boeing with coaxial rotor blades. Both were designed to match the dimensions of the Black Hawk.
“There is a process that the sourcing committee goes through to not only make the choice of source, but then, importantly, to check themselves and ask others to check them to make sure everything is done right,” said Doug Bush, in charge of purchases in the US Army. “It takes a while, but we want to be absolutely sure we’re doing it right and getting what’s best for the army.”
In a statement released after Bell’s victory, Sikorsky and Boeing indicated that they remain confident that the DefiantX is the helicopter the US Army needs to carry out its demanding missions today and in the future. Companies will study military feedback to improve their offering.
Both candidates for the purchase went through several years of test flights. The journey started with a collaborative multipurpose technology demonstration, followed by two phases of competitive development and risk mitigation efforts. In general, the V-280 Valor passed all stages of intermediate tests more successfully – in terms of engine operation, acceleration, flight performance, delays and malfunctions.
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Source: Defense News