The Army is retiring the helicopters. They are too slow, their range too short. The 280-Valor can switch between airplane and helicopter modes by twisting the rotors.

The US Army’s helicopter days are numbered. After a year-long procedure, the Army decided in the so-called Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program that the Bell V-280 Valor should be the successor to the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters. 1.3 billion US dollars will initially flow to bring the Valor from test status to series production. The special thing about the V-280 Valor are the tilting rotors. During takeoff and landing, they are tilted upwards, allowing the Valor to land and take off in one spot like a helicopter. In flight, the rotors turn forward – the Valor switches to airplane mode.

The best of both worlds

This has several advantages. In airplane mode, a rotorcraft benefits greatly from lift and therefore requires less power and fuel than a helicopter for the same task. In addition, higher speeds are possible. Combat helicopters reach a top speed of around 300 km/h, the Valor has a cruising speed of 520 km/h, and it can also reach 560 km/h for short periods.

The advantages of the concept have been known for a long time, but there is a problem: the swiveling rotors put a strain on the construction. The development of the older V-22 Osprey was met with a number of setbacks. From afar, the Valor resembles Bell-Boeing’s V-22 Osprey. But when it comes to the engines, Bell uses a different solution. The Osprey twists the entire nacelle that houses the engine, axle and rotors. The V-280 reduces rotating mass and therefore stress.

The V-280 has a gearbox installed between the engine and the rotor. Only the front part of the nacelle with the drive shaft and the rotor can bend upwards, the engine itself remains in the horizontal position. The engine nacelle sits at the end of the wings. In the event of damage, the Valor can also operate with just one engine. Since the motor is not pivoted, it is possible to operate both rotors with one motor, because in the event of a defect, the power of the motor on the intact side is also transferred to the actually non-driven rotor via a shaft.

Enormous range

In addition, the Valor is about 30 percent cheaper than the Osprey. The Valor can carry up to 14 soldiers in addition to the crew of three. It can be assumed that it will be built in different variants. The design of a heavily armed gunship has already been shown. The operational range is up to 1480 kilometers, it includes outward and return flights. For a transport flight, the possible distance is an enormous 3900 kilometers.

So a system like the V-280 can deploy troops over very long distances while providing close air support to ground forces. These long distances are important today so that troops can take off from a carrier without it coming within range of anti-ship missiles. The need for the overarching Future Vertical Lift program is estimated at up to 4000 units. If successful, the military version should be exported. If the system proves itself in the military, the technology should also migrate to the civilian sector.