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Will the Army get a tiltrotor?

July 9, 2013

Bell Helicopter wants to sell the U. S. Army 4,000 V-280 aircraft, a third-generation tiltrotor designed using lessons learned from the V-22 Osprey. The aircraft could replace both Black Hawk and Apache helicopters in the transport/utility and attack roles.

An artist’s conception of the V-280 tiltrotor shows its V-tail and nontilting wings and engines. Only the propellers and drivetrain rotate to give the plane the ability to take-off and land vertically.

Bell says the V-280’s speed and range will make it more useful and efficient to the Army. (The 280 in the planes’ name references the aircraft’s top speed of 280 knots.)

Unlike the V-22, The new tiltrotor has engines and a wing that remain fixed while the rotors and drivetrains mount in tilting pods. This should make it safer for troops to enter and leave the plane through its 6-ft-wide side doors. The new configuration will also give door gunners a more open field of fire. And stationary engines should simplify certification because there’s no need to check engine performance at a variety of operating angles. Bell also wants to reduce the loading on the rotor disk to lower the amount of downwash coming off the propellers.

The V-280 will have a straight wing rather than the Osprey’s forward-swept design, a measure taken to simplify the overall design. The wing will also be built as a single, large component using what Bell calls Large Cell Carbon Core technology. This should reduce weight and cost, and let any damage to the wing be detected immediately.

Bell has tentatively planned for two models. The utility version would carry a crew of four and 11 passengers, while the attack version would carry guided weapons inside the fuselage and under the wings, and have a turreted gun under the nose. They will have a combat range of up to 800 nautical miles and a one-way ferry range of 2,100 nautical miles.

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