H-60 Replacement Tilt-rotor Prototype

Bell’s V-280 prototype

The Aviationist brings us pictures of the first prototype for the V-280, one of two contenders for the Army’s “Future Vertical Lift” program to replace the H-60 and other helicopters. We have discussed this program previously as a potential replacement for Coast Guard MH-60s, here (2015) and here (2013).

The competing Sikorsky-Boeing-made SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter is expected to fly in 2018.

The V-280’s characteristics reportedly include:

  • Speed: 280 KTAS cruise speed
  • Combat range: 500-800nm
  • Strategically Self-Deployable – 2100nm Range
  • Achieves 6k/95 (hover out of ground effect at full load, at 6,000 feet/95 degrees F)
  • Non-rotating, fixed engines
  • Triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system
  • Conventional, retractable landing gear
  • Two 6′ wide large side doors for ease of ingress/egress
  • Suitable down wash
  • Significantly smaller logistical footprint compared to other aircraft

 

Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor–The Eagle Eye Look-a-Like

v-247_island-coastal-overwatch-scene_render_160916-r00-768x509

Photo: V-247 Vigilant, Bell Helicopter artist rendering

Earlier we talked about the possibility of a new tilt-rotor UAS with a configuration similar to the Eagle Eye concept that was part of the original DeepWater program. Now we have a Bell Helicopter news release which provides more information on this program and its capabilities, plus a designation, V-247, and a name, Vigilant.” A Breaking Defense post puts the program in context relative to the V-22, the Marines intended use, and the Air Force’s long endurance MQ-9 Reaper UAS.

As noted earlier, this is a much larger aircraft than the Eagle Eye would have been. Bell states that its wing and rotor folded foot print is equivilent to that of a UH-1Y (latest version of the Huey) which is much larger than an MH-65 and only slightly smaller than an H-60. It uses a single 6,000 HP engine. If deployed on a cutter it would replace a manned helicopter.

Below is the Bell news release quoted in full:


FORT WORTH, Texas (Sept. 22, 2016) – Speaking before an audience of aviation and military experts assembled at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, today unveiled the Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor.

To download renderings of the Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor, please follow this link.

The Bell V-247 tiltrotor is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.  The revolutionary UAS is designed to provide unmatched long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability and lethal reach, as well as runway independence to operate successfully in maritime environments and locations without secure runway availability.

The Bell V-247 Vigilant satisfies the comprehensive spectrum of capabilities outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Aviation Plan, and could be available for production as early as 2023. The Bell V-247 Vigilant is a solution designed to address the evolving demands of the military and transportation sectors for unmanned aircraft for a shipborne UAS platform, including:

  • The ability to operate successfully without a runway, such as in maritime environments
  • Seamless performance in locations without secure runway availability, such as at shrinking land bases in contested areas
  • Significant reduction of the logistical footprint while retaining the superior operational performance by combining the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft
  • The capacity to control the battle space effectively with 24-hour intelligence provided by unmatched long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability

A Group 5 UAS, the Bell V-247 Vigilant is designed to combine unparalleled capability with unprecedented flexibility to execute a wide array of mission sets, including electronic warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), escort, C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computers), persistent fire missions and tactical distribution. The UAS is expected to accomplish all of this with the benefits of extended endurance through plug-and-play mission packages.

“The Bell V-247 Vigilant is the next leap in innovation making the future of aviation a reality today – it’s a testament to the power and versatility of tiltrotor flight,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO at Bell Helicopter. “At Bell Helicopter, we are constantly challenging the traditional notion of what it means to fly by staying on the leading edge of aviation and technological development. The unmanned tiltrotor is the latest example of how we are changing the way the world flies, taking our customers into the dynamic world of next-generation aircraft.”

The Bell V-247 Vigilant’s design boasts a number of unrivaled capabilities and transformational features, including:

  • A sea-based platform, which can be sized for compatibility with DDG guided missile destroyers shipboard applications
  • Single engine tiltrotor unmanned aerial system
  • 24-hour persistent ISR with a two aircraft system
  • Speed: 250 knots cruise speed; 180 knots endurance speed; >300 knots at maximum continuous power
  • Combat range: 450 nautical miles mission radius
  • Time on station: 11 hours
  • Size: 16,000 pounds empty weight / 29,500 pounds max gross weight; 65-feet wing span; 30-feet rotor diameter
  • As it sits on the deck, the V-247 Vigilant can hold a combination of fuel, armament, and sensors, up to 13,000 pounds
  • Blade Fold Wing Stow makes V-247 Vigilant DDG hangar compatible
  • Expeditionary capability with small logistical footprint
  • Open architecture and interfaces
  • Air-to-air refueling
  • Modular payload system to provide maximum flexibility
  • Power distribution system to provide maximum mission capability
  • Redundant flight control system
  • Electro Optical System and Targeting System

The Bell V-247 Vigilant offers a dynamic profile that is uniquely suited to complete highly versatile operations and support missions. It is designed to provide extended range flying from land or ship, matchless expeditionary capabilities and to remain on-station with heightened loiter times for extended periods. With its signature blade fold wing stow design, it will fit inside a DDG hangar space, and two can be loaded on a C-17 aircraft. The open architecture of the modular payload system enhances flexibility for aircraft customization by mission type. The bays on the Bell V-247 Vigilant are designed to carry high definition sensors, fuel, sonar buoys, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) modules, 360-degree surface radar modules, an MK-50 torpedo or Hellfire or JAGM missiles optimally. Regardless of the need, the Bell V-247 Vigilant easily integrates into priority mission sets to complete multiple airborne requirements.

“Leveraging lessons learned from our extensive history and experience with tiltrotors, we have found the best available solution to fulfill the Marine Corps need for a Group 5 UAS,” said Vince Tobin, vice president, advanced tiltrotor systems at Bell Helicopter. “The Bell V-247 Vigilant will give military customers the capabilities needed to reduce the complexity of deployment, increase speed of employment, reduce mission times and increase response time – all critical elements to completing missions to save lives and protect our freedom.”

Bell Helicopter utilized its decades of applied tiltrotor experience to develop this next generation UAS. The Bell V-247 Vigilant design and capabilities bring to bear experience from the V-22 tiltrotor program and UH-1Y/AH-1Z programs, capturing the V-280 Valor’s unmatched design and performance standards in order to provide unparalleled competency to support ship-board compatibility.

Press Contact:
ANDREW WOODWARD
+1 817-280-3100
mediarelations@bh.com

Is the Eagle Eye UAV Making a Come-Back?

X-247 armed drone model

BreakingDefense is reporting the Marines are looking for a large tilt rotor UAV with Reaper MQ-9 like capabilities.

This might sound familiar because a big part of the DeepWater program was a tilt rotor UAV called the Eagle Eye.

Reaper is a relatively large UAV with a  max. takeoff weight of 10,494 lb (4,760 kg). That is about a thousand pounds more than an MH-65 and more than four times the size of the Eagle Eye. Still, if the Marines do succeed in creating a vertical take-off UAV, it may be something the Coast Guard will want to use.

Bell Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAV

Commandant’s Strategic Intent, Mid-Term Report

Coast Guard Capt. Douglas Nash, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Sation Sacramento, salutes a Coast Guard C-27J pilot during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Sacramento's hanger in McClellan Park, Thursday, July 1, 2016. The ceremony marked the final day that an HC-130 Hercules crew stood the watch at Air Station Sacramento and introduced the newest aircraft. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

Procurement of 14 C-27J aircraft was one of the achievements sited. C-27Js replace C-130s at CGAS Sacramento. 

The Commandant has issued a mid-term update on his earlier published “Strategic Intent, 2015-2019” (pdf). The new document is available in pdf format. You can find it here: “United States Coast Guard Commandant’s Strategic Intent, 2015-2019, Mid-Term Report.”

It is relatively short and readable at 21 pages. The recurring themes of the Commandant’s administration are all there, starting with TOC (transnational organized crime) and its deleterious effect on Western Hemisphere governance and prosperity. It does read a little like an Officer Evaluation Report input.

There is nothing particularly surprising here, but even for me, the enumeration of the scope the Coast Guard’s authorities, responsibilities, and international contacts is still mind boggling.

I am not going to try to summarize the report, but there were a few things that struck me.

The Commandant mentions service life extension programs for the seagoing buoy tenders (already begun), the 47 foot MLBs, and the 87 foot WPBs (in the future), but there is no mention of what we will do about the inland tender fleet. There will also be a life extension program for helicopters before they are finally replaced.

“Extend the service life of our rotary wing assets and align with DOD’s Future Vertical Lift initiative.”

There is mention of a program I was not aware of, the “Defense Threat Reduction Agency National Coast Watch System project.” The Defense Threat Reduction Agency attempts to track and reduce the WMD threat. It is not really clear what our role is here. We know about the container inspection programs in foreign ports. Is that it, or is there more to this? (that can be discussed at an unclassified level.)

Tiltrotor Aircraft for SAR May Be Closer Than You Think

BellV280

Photo: Bell V-280 concept

We have talked about “Future Vertical Lift” (FVL) before. It’s a program to replace several helicopters, including the H-60, with advanced aircraft with much greater speed and range.

Defense News reports that while V-280 demonstrator is expected to fly in 2017, the Army, which has the lead, doesn’t expect to fund production until in the late 2020s with the aircraft coming on line in the 2030s. But the Bell/Lockheed team that is producing the V-280 Valor, believes that there is Air Force and Navy interest that could see initial operational capability by 2025.

Meanwhile, Aero News Network reports the UAE has decided to purchase three AW609 tiltrotors, for Search and Rescue, with an option for three more. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2019. These aircraft will have twice the speed and twice the range of the helicopters they replace (275 knot maximum speed and 750 nm range).

AW609

Photo: AW609 prototype

I can’t help but think these would be awfully useful in the Arctic, and wouldn’t it be nice, if when we launch on a long range recovery mission, we could have two tilt-rotors, instead of a helicopter and a fixed wing.