* An Army effort to demonstrate cutting-edge helicopter designs is gathering momentum as industry moves forward with the development of new aircraft.
The service is leading a project known as the joint multi-role technology demonstrator, which will serve as a precursor to the Army's eventual future vertical lift program. FVL is intended to replace thousands of aging legacy helicopters with a new, advanced family of systems--including light through ultra-heavy variants--across the services in the late 2020s and 2030s.
The companies participating in the technology demonstrator program--Bell Helicopter and a Sikorsky-Boeing team--are plowing forward.
Bell's V-280 Valor, which takes technology from the company's V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, recently flew for the first time at the company's Amarillo, Texas, facility in December.
The inaugural flight--during which the aircraft hovered for several minutes--was considered a success, said Chris Gehler, Bell's program manager for the V-280.
"It's a huge milestone," he told National Defense. "Bell is providing the Army leadership and DoD leadership confidence that there is definitely a viable technology that can meet the future vertical lift requirements."
A data issue with the aircraft's telemetry system caused Bell to end the test earlier than intended, he noted.
"We saw some data come in that caused one of our engineers to say, 'Knock it off,' and we set the aircraft down to check out the data and it turns out that it was not an issue," he said.
By the time the aircraft was prepared to fly again, the winds in Amarillo had picked up--making flight unwise, he noted.
Bell was able to glean information about aircraft loads through the hover test, Gehler said. "We're just really validating a lot of the metrics that we have established to make sure that our models are correct," he added.
Nonetheless, Bell plans to methodically progress up to high-speed testing and then transitioning to forward flight. That will likely happen by the end of 2018.
The company is "not trying to set arbitrary dates or anything like that, but certainly we have got a schedule," Gehler said. "We would like to see all of the key performance parameters tested out this year."
Bell expects the Army will want to "shake out" the aircraft in the summer and that it could be used for additional testing while being equipped with varying mission systems, he said.
Gehler sees future vertical lift as a key program for the Army and one...