Bell Textron unveiled design concepts of new High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) aircraft intended for military applications.
The three designs unveiled feature two tiltrotor engines and two turbofans, and are capable of switching between rotary wings for vertical lift and the turbofans for high-speed flight. According to the manufacturer, the concept offers the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of a fighter aircraft.
“Bell’s HSVTOL technology is a step-change improvement in rotorcraft capabilities,” said Jason Hurst, vice president of Innovation at Bell Textron. “Our technology investments have reduced risk and prepared us for rapid development of HSVTOL in a digital engineering environment, leveraging experience from a robust past of technology exploration and close partnerships with the Department of Defense and Research Laboratories.”
Among the advantages offered by this concept, Bell said it offers low downwash hover capability and cruise speeds of over 400 knots (740 kilometers per hour). Thus, such an aircraft could come as a faster replacement to the Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor already operating in the US Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.
In September 2020, the USAF Special Operations Command (AFSOC) revealed being on the lookout for a successor to the Osprey. “We’re not just looking at marginal improvements, in terms of speed, range and reliability, but we’re looking at a generational movement for a vertical take-off and landing capability going into the future. I think it’ll be probably something quite different than the V-22,” said Lieutenant General James Slife, commander of AFSOC, during the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference. In April 2021, Bell was awarded a $950,000 contract by the USAF Research Laboratory to study the HSVTOL concept.
In parallel, Bell is also working on the V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor aircraft smaller and faster than the V-22 Osprey. The V-280 should compete in the US Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition where it will face the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant-X helicopter.