Bell [TXT] said Thursday it is retiring its V-280 Valor tiltrotor technology demonstrator from active flight testing, after reaching 214 flight hours and a max speed of 305 knots, as it readies for the Army’s official Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program of record.
The announcement arrives as the Army is set to release its Request for Proposals for FLRAA production this summer, with a contract to be awarded in late fiscal year 2022 to either Bell or a Sikorsky [LMT]-Boeing [BA] team offering the Defiant X platform.
“We have come a long way since we started our journey eight years ago. We made commitments, we safely executed our program on time, and we validated our performance claims and the accuracy of our digital models through flight demonstrations. Ultimately, the Army doesn’t send warfighters into battle riding in the back of digital models and so we thought it was important to bring that physical proof,” Ryan Ehinger, Bell’s FLRAA program director, said in a statement.
Both Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing are currently participating in the FLRAA’s Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) Phase II effort for the Black Hawk replacement program to further refine their proposals, which will include completing both air vehicle and weapons systems preliminary design reviews.
“As the FLRAA competition moves towards a program of record, Bell will continue CD&RR Phase II efforts to provide initial preliminary designs for major subsystems and the conceptual weapons system, based on data-proven performance that ensures transformational capabilities will be delivered in line with the Army’s schedule,” the company wrote in a statement.
With the platform no longer flying, the company is expected to use the V-280 as a testbed to gather additional data on the ground to further assist its proposal for FLRAA.
“The team is applying data-driven optimizations to deliver a reliable and sustainable long-range assault weapon system for the imminent program of record competition,” a company spokesperson told Defense Daily. “For example, in the next phase of the V-280 program we anticipate being able to provide updates on the reliability being shown by our gearboxes and rotor systems. These are two of the largest cost drivers for rotorcraft. In initial examinations they are still looking great, they have been tested to full power and put through the gamut of engineering maneuvers and tests.”
Bell first flew the V-280 in December 2017 under the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program to inform FLRAA requirements, with the company noting Army experimental test pilots have conducted 15 sorties to date.