Air Platforms

Bell Helicopter submits V-280 design for JMR-TD

10 July 2014
Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor tiltrotor design includes innovative materials that keep its weight low. Source: Caitlin Lee

Key Points

  • Bell Helicopter designed its V-280 Valor emphasising light, innovative materials, and simplified design elements in order to reduce cost
  • The company is confident that tiltrotor aircraft can provide superior performance, but said it wanted to enhance the design's appeal by driving down the price

Bell Helicopter has submitted its offering to the US Army for the Joint Multirole Rotorcraft-Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme, a company official said during a 10 July teleconference with reporters.

"Bell has submitted its initial design and risk review," said Chris Gehler, Bell's director of operations for military programmes. "That was submitted on June 12."

The Pentagon is expected to choose two industry teams out of the four competing for technology demonstration contracts under the JMR project at the end of July. JMR is then expected to feed into a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) effort to develop a family of helicopters for the Pentagon beginning sometime in the next decade.

A Bell Helicopter-Lockheed Martin team and Karem are each developing tiltrotor designs, while AVX and Boeing-Sikorsky are separately working on coaxial-rotor designs. Each team is expected to provide at least half of the development funding leading to a flying prototype, which they would demonstrate for the government in 2017.

According to Gehler, Bell's team has emphasised cost in its "clean-sheet design" of the Valor. Known for its V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which it builds with Boeing, Bell aimed to provide the speed and agility of a titlrotor design at a relatively low price for JMR, Gehler said.

"We conducted a lot of activity to reduce cost on this aircraft," he said. "You get great performance with a tiltrotor, but cost is sometimes an issue so we decided to take that into consideration from the moment we began designing."

He noted that costs were mainly reduced by dropping weight and increasing reliability. "Every aspect of this aircraft has been looked at from a cost perspective," said Gehler.

For example, the company decided to simplify or outright forego design features such as the automatic wing fold on the V-22 that it saw as unnecessary for JMR.

Other methods the company used for weight reduction included extensive use of "newer, stronger, and lighter" materials such as advanced composites for many components, and Gehler said that the ultimate Valor design for FVL would feature an all-composite fuselage. The concept demonstrator for JMR will stop short of that, but will have many composite-based components, including the v-tails and wings, he added.

The engine will be another difference between the planned JMR demonstrator and the design as envisioned in the future. The JMR demonstrator will use legacy General Electric T55 engines, while the ultimate design would incorporate new technology from the army's Future Affordable Turbine Engine programme.



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