Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington D.C., United States (4E) – The U.S. Army’s new and utterly sophisticated Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft slated to replace the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack chopper and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter will have one great advantage over these two iconic combat helicopters — stealth.
The V-280, which is under development, is 100% complete and will make its maiden flight before the end of this year. It will enter service with the Army in the 2030s. Valor is being developed by Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.
Valor can fly twice as fast and operate at twice the range of the UH-60 Black Hawk. It can also transport 23 percent more troops (four crew + 14 troops) and 25 percent more cargo (12,000 lbs) at 320 km/h.
The third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft combines the unique capabilities of Bell’s V-22 Osprey and also integrates new countermeasures and redundancies meant to improve versatility and durability during ground maneuvers.
But what’s intriguing about valor is its purported stealth characteristics, a first for any Army helicopter.
Bell and Lockheed Martin admit they’ve engineered “stealthy” characteristics into Valor. Among these are infrared (IR) heat suppressing systems and fuselage contour constructions.
“We will definitely employ some passive measures in terms of how we shape the aircraft, to make it invisible,” revealed Vince Tobin, Bell Helicopter vice president of advanced tiltrotor systems.
“The key is not to be able to target it and reduce the signature passively so radar sweeps do not see anything. In the end, you do not want to get detected or engaged.”
A stealth refinement that might make its way into Valor is reducing the heat signature coming from the engines or exhaust. Further shaping the exterior of the chopper to become less visible to enemy radar is also in the cards.
“We are looking for opportunities to reduce that heat signature,” said Tobin.
“A lot of new technologies that the engine companies are looking for include seeking the best ways to ensure maximum performance of the engine while using an IR suppressor.”
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