LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT] CEO Mitch Snyder wants to cut the price of the V-280 tilt-rotor aircraft in half and he’s identified a number of techniques to accomplish that.
Snyder said Bell is moving toward a fixed engine to reduce complexity. The V-280 will also use a straight wing, he said, to eliminate a mid-wing gear box. Snyder said Bell will also take advantage of new composites.
But Snyder said Bell’s main focus area will be increasing the V-280’s simplicity. This, he said, will increase reliability and and affordability by making it easier to manufacture.
“When you make it simple, you usually make it more affordable,” Snyder told reporters Feb. 29 at the HAI Heli-Expo conference.
The V-280 is Bell’s next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft and its offering for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) tech demonstrator program, a key initiative for advancing rotorcraft technologies. Using lessons learned from JMR, the Army plans to start a new program of record called Future Vertical Lift (FVL) that will replace the service’s entire helicopter fleet with a family of new aircraft.
The company believes the V-280 will provide more than twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms while featuring integrated cabin armor, fly-by-wire component redundancy and state of the art countermeasures and performance. The V-280 will feature a speed of 280 knots of true air speed (KTAS) and a combat range of 500-800 nautical miles.
Snyder said the V-280 is still on track for first flight in 2017. The V-280 is being manufactured at Bell’s Amarillo, Texas, facility. Snyder said Bell is using its 200,000 hours of flight experience on the V-22 to inform the V-280.
Snyder believes Bell will secure enough contracts to continue making the AH-1Z into the 2020s. The AH-1Z is an attack helicopter also being purchased by the Marine Corps, which will buy 24 as part of its fiscal year 2017 budget request. Snyder said although the UH-1Y is also coming to the end of its deliveries, he sees a lot of international interest in the aircraft, known as the Yankee model.
Once Bell completes its AH-1Z program of record for the Marine Corps, Snyder said the company will not develop for the Pentagon typical aircraft typically classified as a helicopter.
“We’re pushing flight different ways,” he said. “We’re going to pursue upgrades to continually evolve the Yankee and Zulu, (but) all of our platforms for the future of the military are not what you’d classify as a helicopter.”
Bell also received a bit of good news Feb. 26 at the Air Force Association’s (AFA) Air Warfare symposium in Orlando, Fla. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) chief Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said he wanted AFSOC to get the four “attrition reserve” V-22s at some point so the production line doesn’t go cold before the command needs them. He said the Air Force needs to build in enough reserve so it is constantly flying 50 V-22s, which is the predecessor to the V-280.