As first reported by Business Insider, the United States Army is looking to replace its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in the near future. The next-generation helicopter to take its place is the V-280 Valor. Developed by Bell Helicopter, it’s a remarkable aircraft with some truly impressive features.
The V-280 Valor is classified as a tiltrotor helicopter developed by Bell Helicopter in conjunction with defense contractor Lockheed Martin. It was first unveiled in 2013 during the Army Aviation of America’s annual forum in Forth Worth, Texas. Later that year, the Army awarded an investment contract to Bell Helicopter for the manufacturing and delivery of the V-280 Valor. In December 2017, the V-280 Valor made its first flight, according to a press release issued by Bell Helicopter.
“First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership’s modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives,” said Mitch Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter. “The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake.”
Featuring a similar design as the V-22 Osprey, the V-280 Valor is a large, sleek-looking helicopter. It’s slightly larger than its Black Hawk predecessor, capable of carrying up to four crew and 14 passengers. To put those numbers into perspective, the Black Hawk can carry a crew of four and just 11 passengers.
While large, there’s been a great deal of emphasis placed in making the V-280 Valor lightweight. By lowering its weight, the V-280 Valor can carry more cargo while also reaping the benefits of a lower production cost. To achieve a lightweight design, Bell Helicopter has opted for composite material in the aircraft’s wings, fuselage and tail. Statistics show that making the V-280 Valor lightweight reduces its production cost by up to 30% when compared to the V-22.
While the Army has expressed strong interest in the V-280 Valor — and is expected to follow through by purchasing the new helicopter — there’s still competition for Bell Helicopter. Lockheed Martin, for instance, is developing a new helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant. The SB-1 Defiant is a more traditional helicopter, featuring a pusher-prop.
So, what’s next for the V-280 Valor? Bell Helicopter says it wants to sell the new helicopter to all services. Of course, the Army would likely account for the biggest chunk of its usage, assuming the Army follows through and purchases the V-280 Valor.