The Army’s Potential Apache And Black Hawk Replacement Is Ready To Take Flight

Gear
Photo via Bell Helicopter

Bell Helicopter’s advanced V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype, developed to replace the iconic AH-64 Apache attack chopper and UH-60 Black Hawk utility copter in the Army’s fleet of rotary aircraft, is “100%” complete and ready for its maiden flight before the end of 2017, the company announced on Sept. 6.


The Valor was first unveiled by Bell and partner Lockheed Martin at the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow after the company was selected in 2014 to develop an aircraft Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, the program that will eventually feed into the Department of Defense’s broad Future Vertical Lift program. If deemed suitable for the Army’s needs, the V-280 is expected to offer a major upgrade to the branch’s rotary aircraft fleet.

According to Popular Mechanics, the Valor is capable of hauling 23% more troops and 25% more cargo at 280 knots per hour, flying twice as fast and operating at twice the range than the versatile UH-60 Black Hawk, which has been a staple of Army operations for the last four decades. Designed as a “clean sheet” tiltrotor that incorporates the unique capabilities of Bell’s V-22 Osprey, the aircraft reportedly integrates new countermeasures and redundancies meant to improve versatility and durability during ground maneuvers.

An artist's rendering of Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor prototypePhoto via Bell Helicopter

While the Valor faces stiff competition from the SB-1 Defiant developed by Sikorsky and Boeing for the Joint Multi-Role demonstrator, it remains an appealing option for  a DoD urgently striving to replace its aging Black Hawk fleet. As of Sept. 3, Army Safety Center data indicated that the branch had experienced an average of 131 total aviation mishaps (and 23 Class A mishaps that result in fatalities or significant damage) since fiscal year 2014.

And though this alarming mishap rate is often attributed to military-wide flight readiness issues, Black Hawk variants in August 2017 alone experienced separate aviation mishaps in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, off the coast of Hawaii, and off the coast of Yemen. Despite worries about a pilot shortage and experience deficit detailed in a Pentagon Inspector General audit of Black Hawk training and airframe evaluations released in July, the DoD emphasized that Army Aviation and Missile Command “did not effectively manage airframe condition evaluations for the UH-60 fleet,” so far that 25% of the branch’s 2,098 Black Hawks skipped mandatory safety inspections between March 2016 and February 2017.

An artist's rendering of Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor prototypePhoto via Bell Helicopter

The Valor may appear especially attractive to the Army given, according to Bloomberg, the V-22 Osprey’s recent success as a reliable workhorse for the Marine Corps that’s been battling its own aviation mishap crisis in recent years. Indeed, the tiltrotor design has appealed to military planners as a next-generation approach to marrying the maneuverability of a helicopter with the range and speed of a fixed-wing aircraft. Despite several fatal accidents early in the Osprey’s development, experts suggest that the aircraft has a more impressive safety record than other experimental aircraft developed in the last decade.

“Compared to the number of helicopters lost, there have been relatively few Osprey accidents,” Richard Whittle, longtime defense reporter and author of The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey, told the Portland Press-Herald in August. “It had an ugly-duckling development, but really for the past decade it has been a bit of swan.”

The Valor is set to undergo an initial ground test at the company’s assembly center in Amarillo, Texas, this fall, according to Bell. The Army plans on evaluating proposals in 2019 before selecting a final replacement — and if the DoD IG report on the Black Hawk is any indication, that selection can’t come soon enough.

WATCH NEXT:

In a scathing letter, a top Navy legal official on Sunday expressed "grave ethical concerns" over revelations that government prosecutors used tracking software in emails to defense lawyers in ongoing cases involving two Navy SEALs in San Diego.

The letter, written by David G. Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Navy's Defense Service Offices, requested a response by Tuesday from the Chief of the Navy's regional law offices detailing exactly what type of software was used and what it could do, who authorized it, and what controls were put in place to limit its spread on government networks.

"As our clients learn about these extraordinary events in the media, we are left unarmed with any facts to answer their understandable concerns about our ability to secure the information they must trust us to maintain. This situation has become untenable," Wilson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less
Pfc. Kyle Dinsmore gets his turn to use the system during the SBS fielding at Fort Bragg. Photo: Patrick Ferraris/U.S. Army

Those really sweet, hand-held drones that the Army bought in January were finally put to the test as they were fielded to some lucky soldiers for the first time at the beginning of May.

Read More Show Less
Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven. (Flickr/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Sean K. Harp)

For many people, millennials are seen as super-entitled, self-involved, over-sensitive snowflakes who don't have the brains or brawn to, among other noble callings, serve as the next great generation of American warfighters.

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven is here to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Read More Show Less
Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.

Read More Show Less
Fort Irwin's painted rocks in Nov. 25, 2014 (U.S. Army/ Guy Volb)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

FORT IRWIN, California -- Anyone who's been here has seen it: the field of brightly painted boulders surrounding a small mountain of rocks that symbolizes unit pride at the Army's National Training Center.

For nearly four decades, combat units have painted their insignias on boulders near the road into this post. It's known as Painted Rocks.

Read More Show Less