Bell Helicopter could provide a next-generation military helicopter to United States forces by 2025, the company said, according to Defense News.
The next family of helicopters would be a joint effort between Bell and Lockheed Martin as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role program, exploring future technology. The helicopter would be based on the Bell-Lockheed V-280 tiltrotor, and will be demonstrated as part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift effort.
Bell-Lockheed’s rival in this matter is the team of Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing, who are working on a coaxial helicopter for demonstration purposes called the SB-1 Defiant. The Bell-Lockheed helicopter outperforms Sikorsky and Boeing when it comes to range, with a range of 1,200 nautical miles compared to 900.
The prototypes will fly in 2017, while the Army will likely award a contract in the late 2020s. Richard Harris, Bell’s VP of international military business sales, told Defense News that Bell-Lockheed expected to have operational capability by 2025.
The Future Vertical Lift project may also extend to the Navy and Air Force, Bell said, possibly even before the Army’s variant is ready.
“We’ve also caught the interest of the Marine Corps and the Navy … and the Air Force,” said Harris. “We think, moving forward, we may have one of those services grasp onto that and promote it ahead of the Army.”
As for the possibility of the helicopter being ready for 2025, the Army might not get that either. “It wouldn’t be with the Army then, unless we could get the Army to come to the left,” Harris said. “The other services are already thinking ahead of the power curve, and they are thinking that they can move that to the left. We can actually be in full-rate production of this aircraft for another service by 2024 or 2025.”
(Via Defence News)
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