Military, Modern Day

Bell V-280 Flies High to Replace UH-60 Black Hawk

  • The Bell V-280 is set to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk in the U.S. Army.
  • On 5th December 2022, the U.S. Army awarded an initial contract of $232 million to Bell for manufacturing the advanced helicopter.
  • The initial development and production cost is estimated to be $7.1 billion.
  • If everything goes well, Bell could generate a total revenue of more than $70 billion in the coming years.

In 1960, Lawrence Dale Bell founded the aerospace company Bell Textron. In addition to manufacturing military aircraft in the United States, the company also manufactures commercial helicopters in Mirabel, Canada.

A subsidiary of Bell Textron, Bell manufactures military-grade rotorcrafts. The company ranks amongst the leading aircraft manufacturers, with Sikorsky Aircraft as its top competitor. However, recently it seems that Bell has snatched the limelight.

Bell V-280 Valor vs. UH-60 Black Hawk

V-280 and a UH-60
The Bell V-280 is set to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk for the US Army.

The Sikorsky’s Black Hawk has been the number one choice of the U.S. Army since the 1970s. As of 2022, the U.S. military holds a fleet of 2,100 Black Hawks and plans to use them for another 30 years. Nevertheless, the U.S. military also prioritises innovation in its quest to stay on top of the game.

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In the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), the Bell V-280 crushed Boeing, Sikorsky, and Lockheed Martin, to become the replacement for the legendary UH-60 Black Hawks. On Monday, 5th December, 2022, the U.S. Army awarded a $232 million contract to the winner.

The first installment is expected to be around $7.1 billion, contributing to the initial production and manufacturing of the aircraft. In the coming years the deal could be worth up to $70 billion depending on the number of aircraft supplied.

Army’s Historic Decision

The Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition was supposed to end in June 2022. However, judges announced that “quality control” and “diligence” required more time. Consequently, the long-awaited results were delayed for another five months.

Doug Bush, the Acquisition Chief of the U.S. Army, said, “It’s a chance to move to the next step in this vital program.”

“We have taken new authorities from Congress. We have melded them with a thoughtful, deliberate approach to trying things before proceeding. Doing things in terms of the program structure to allow us to move at a greater speed than originally planned,” Bush added.

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Currently, more than 28 countries operate Black Hawks, so it is not hard to see that this decision holds massive significance. It is likely that following in the footsteps of the United States, these nations will soon adopt the Bell V-280 as well.

While Bell has guaranteed for itself a lucrative source of revenue for the next decade, the future of Sikorsky’s Black Hawk looks bleak.

US Blackhawk
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter takes off in Iraq in 2005
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward G. Martens)

Features of The V-280 Valor

Bell officially unveiled the V-280 in 2013 at the Army Aviation Association of America’s Annual Professional Forum and Exposition in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 15,000 kg Bell V-280 can fly at an astonishing speed of 280 knots (519 kmph). Although named after its cruise speed, V-280 has a top speed of 300 knots – beating the UH-60 by more than a hundred knots.

The V-280 has a combat range of 930–1,480 km, with an ability to go up to 3,900 km while ferrying. Needless to say, the old UH-60 falls massively short in comparison to the V-280.

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An AV-280 variant can launch rockets, missiles, and even small crewless aerial vehicles toward its target. Unsurprisingly, the advanced aircraft has all the features necessary for tactical combat.

Carl Coffman, VP of Future Vertical Lift Strategy at Bell, explained, “What Bell did with the V-280 Valor was to evolve the tilt-rotor configuration into a fighting machine. V-280 is designed specifically for Army air assault and utility missions in contested environments.”

“We proved that this is not going to be a risky configuration for the Army to adopt. There is no component on the V-280 that you can’t pull with ground-support equipment in an austere environment,” Coffman added.