Earlier this month, Bell Helicopter’s experimental V-280 Valor made its first cruise flight. The aircraft, which is expected to eventually replace the U.S. Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, is intended to be a lighter, simpler and less expensive variant of the Bell V-22 Osprey. Bell is developing the V-280 as a risk-reduction exercise known as the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD), ahead of the USA’s launch of its proposed Future Vertical Lift program.
The Valor makes extensive use of composites in honeycomb sandwich configurations, which allow engineers to reduce weight by 30 percent despite having heavy cabin armor. There are 11 investing partners who worked on various elements of the V-280, including: GKN Aerospace (the plane’s tail structure), Spirit AeroSystems (the plane’s fuselage), Eagle Technologies (the tiltrotor), and Toray Composites America (supplied carbon fiber prepregs).
The V-280’s major components are its carbon fiber wing, prop rotor gearbox and composite yoke for the rotor hub. The wing is the first use of large-cell carbon core composites—a sandwich of carbon-fiber skins and honeycomb. The hub yoke is laid up from composite fabrics and uses open-face tooling around the edges. The V-280 also has the first all-carbon tiltrotor blade.
Once fully operational, it will be one of the fastest military helicopters in the world, with a cruising speed of 280 knots (approx. 322 mph). Eventually, the helicopter will be evaluated against the Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1, which claims a top speed of 250 knots (287 mph).
To see the cruise flight, check out the video below.