Today in military history: the Soviets declare war on Japan

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An artist’s design of the V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell helicopter)


The U.S. military is hosting a fly-off in a year, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working hard to win it.

The military launched a “Request for Proposals”, better known in procurement circles as the “RFP” last year, as the first step in its Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program. , and the contest boils down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” from Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” from Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take very different approaches to meeting the performance requirements of the JMRTD, including the ability to reach speeds of 230 knots and travel a combat radius of approximately 275 miles. The Valor is a tilt-rotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey”, and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors rotating in opposite directions. above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take very different approaches to meeting the performance requirements of the JMRTD, including the ability to reach speeds of 230 knots and travel a combat radius of approximately 275 miles. The Valor is a tilt-rotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey”, and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors rotating in opposite directions. above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize that there is still a fairly important filter on the troubled tiltrotor story,” said Robert Hastings, Bell executive vice president for communications and government affairs. “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Young pilots who have never had to unlearn bad habits from other planes fly the V-22 in ways we never imagined. ”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the military and also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, recounted a conversation he had with a commanding officer of V-22 squadron at the last Singapore Airshow. . The captain told him that at that time he had ospreys in Australia, Okinawa and the Philippines as well as at the exhibit.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as large as that of an admiral a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote General Davis, Deputy Commander of the Marine Corps for Aviation:“ The V-22 hasn’t just changed the way we operate; it has changed the way the enemy worries about us.

But while Hastings easily lists the successes of the V-22 in the country’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant was used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean leaf design.

“The V-22 is largely a product of the 1980s,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.

Today in military history: the Soviets declare war on Japan
The first Valor on the Amarillo assembly line. (Photo: Bell helicopter)

Hastings explained that digital designs along with more precise machining allow parts to “slide very well into place” instead of having to be sanded and otherwise handled by technicians along the assembly line as they go. had to during the manufacture of the Osprey. With these kinds of upgrades, Bell is working to get the V-280 to cost half the V-22’s $ 71 million unit cost.

Bell partnered with Lockheed-Martin to equip the Valor with a state-of-the-art cockpit, building on what engineers and test pilots learned during the development of the F-35 . Although there is no blueprint for the helmet visor symbology (which was a challenge to develop during testing of the F-35), Hastings stated that the “open architecture” of the cockpit could allow V-280 pilots to have this capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission sets, which are designed to give the Valor plenty of agility in combat.

Bell calls its candidate JMRTD a “third generation” tiltrotor. (The V-22 is the second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in several ways – it’s much lighter because it’s built entirely from carbon-based materials. It has a right wing instead of the Osprey’s forward swept wing. It has a side door instead of a rear ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that – with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin – the Valor can travel 2,100 miles, which will give the military a self-deploying capability it has never had before.

Today in military history: the Soviets declare war on Japan
Artist’s impression of a section of Values ​​entering during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is expected to deploy and the Aviation Division Commander will say to their Aviation Unit Commander, ‘Meet me in the Horn of Africa in three days,’ Hastings said. . “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift being immobilized by these helicopters. ”

The JMRTD take-off program will last for two years, and at the end of it, the military will choose one of two planes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85% in common under the thruster rotor – another cost-saving feature, he said.) The military wants the new planes be ready for war by 2029.

“We think helicopters will be here forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can develop them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can get. do with them.


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