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

Gear
Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor prototype
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:

Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less
Joshua Kaleb Watson (Facebook via Business Insider)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.

Read More Show Less
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Courtesy photo)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Read More Show Less
Saudi air force Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani (NBC News)

The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hold folded flags before military funeral honors. (U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.

Read More Show Less