Bell Helicopter on 22 September revealed a new unmanned tiltrotor aircraft in anticipation of a US Marine Corps (USMC) requirement for a ship-based armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Vince Tobin, Bell vice-president for advanced tiltrotor systems, unveiled a model of the V-247 Vigilant at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The corps floated the need for a larger armed UAV in the 2016 Marine Aviation flight plan released in February.
Tobin said he was unaware of any specific USMC procurement plan for such a UAV, but he expects "potentially for there to be a near-term need". According to the flight plan, a new UAV would carry multiple sensors, electronic warfare capability, C4, and weapons to serve as a ship-based companion aircraft to the Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II combat aircraft.
The V-247 could be ready for production as soon as 2023, Tobin said. The USMC's flight plan, meanwhile, states the need for a technology demonstration in 2018 and initial operational capability in 2026. Bell has not yet selected a power plant for Vigilant, but is seeking one in the 5,000-6,000 hp range, Tobin said.
The new aircraft's open architecture will allow for mission customisation, Bell officials said. The three internal bays can carry sensors, fuel, sonar buoys, radar, an MK-50 torpedo, or Hellfire or joint air-to-ground missiles.
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