The iconic Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk four-blade twin-engine utility military helicopters, which have served the US Army for more than four decades, will be replaced by the new V-280 Valor tiltrotors built by Bell Textron.
According to a statement issued by the Texas-based aerospace manufacturer on December 5, 2022, the US Army officially awarded Bell Textron with a $1.3 billion development contract to replace the Black Hawks as part of the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program.
“We are honored that the U.S. Army has selected the Bell V-280 Valor as its next-generation assault aircraft. […] We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable and transformational weapon system to meet the Army’s mission requirements. We are excited to play an important role in the future of Army Aviation,” Bell chief executive Scott C. Donnelly said.
The initial contract consists of developing weapon system design, manufacturing, and systems integration, as well as the flight-testing and airworthiness qualification.
“This award builds on a decade of the V-280 Valor’s progress through design, manufacturing, and thorough testing to demonstrate that this aircraft will deliver on the FLRAA program requirements. Bell and its industry partners have systematically validated the V-280 aircraft and their modular open systems approach in collaboration with the Army,” the manufacturer said.
What is the V-280 Valor tiltrotor?
Unveiled in 2013, the V-280 Valor is a utility vertical lift aircraft, which is also designed to serve as an attack air vehicle.
According to Bell Textron, the tiltrotor is capable of reaching a cruising speed of up to 280 knots (around 320 miles per hour) with a range of 2,100 nautical miles (or 2,400 miles) and the expected maximum takeoff weight of around 30,000 pounds (14,000 kilograms).
The manufacturer claims that the aircraft can reach a top speed of around 300 knots (345 miles per hour), while its effective combat range fluctuates between 500 and 800 nautical miles (or between 580 and 920 miles).
Looking at the design, the V-280 will feature retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant fly-by-wire control system, and a V-tail configuration. The aircraft’s wings will be made of a single section of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer composite, which will help reduce its weight and production costs.
The V-280 will be capable of carrying up to 14 troops and four crew members onboard.
The aircraft made its first flight in December 2017.
It is expected that the US Army will replace its Black Hawks with the V-280s by 2030.