In support of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) selection program, U.S. Army Redstone Test Center (RTC) Experimental Test Pilots (XPs) conducted flights of the Bell V-280 Valor in August 2020.
This is part of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) preparations for the FLRAA test effort, a key element of Army Modernization. Similar flights are scheduled later this year for the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant, the Army said in a statement September 15.
The FLRAA is on track for full rate production by 2030. On Mar. 16, the Army awarded Other Transaction Agreement contracts to Bell and Sikorsky for the competitive demonstration and risk reduction (CD&RR) phase of the FLRAA aircraft. The CD&RR will extend over two years; informing the final Army requirements and the program of record planned for competition in fiscal year 2022.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Army Experimental Test Pilots to fly the tech demonstrators developed under the Joint Multi-Role Technical Demonstrator Program; providing an initial familiarization with advanced rotorcraft technologies we might expect to see in the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program of record," said Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the FVL Cross-Functional Team.
During the week of Aug. 24, Maj. Wesley Paulsen and Mr. Adam Cowan, Army XPs from RTC, trained in the Software Integration Lab at Bell Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas, before flying the Bell V-280 Valor.
ATEC XPs and flight test engineers are embedded in both the FLRAA and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programs and are dedicated to supporting this important mission in support of Army Modernization efforts.
In the acquisition process of fielding an aircraft, Army XPs plan, execute, and report on flight test results of the equipment to enable the Program Managers to make informed materiel decisions.
"These flights are an important milestone as the Army builds combined test teams with our industry partners and develops the experience and expertise to test new technologies for Future Vertical Lift,” said Col. Steven R. Braddom, commander of RTC. “We are focused on ensuring we are ready to meet the challenges of Army Modernization. Army experimental test pilots with the engineering understanding of these aircraft as well as significant operational and combat experience will be a critical part of the Army's development of the FLRAA and FARA aircraft.”
Specifications of Bell V-280 and Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 rotorcraft
The V-280’s latest flight statistics includes forward flight at 280 knots true airspeed, over 85 hours of flight and 180 rotor turn hours, in-flight transitions between cruise mode and vertical take-off and landing, 45-degree banked turns at 200 knots indicated airspeed, 4500 feet per minute rate of climb and sustained flight at 11,500 feet altitude, single flight ferry of over 370 miles, and fly-by-wire controls.
The SB-1 Defiant, V-280’s competitor, is based on Sikorsky's X2 platform and is a joint multi-role medium-class demonstrator that features a lift system using two coaxial main rotors and a rear-mounted pusher propulsor to solve the problem of retreating blade stall. By using two main rotors that spin in opposite directions, the Defiant counters the tendency of helicopter blades to generate uneven lift forces at high speeds, which severely limits the capabilities of current rotorcraft.