Bell’s V-280 Valor mockup on display at Farnborough

Avatar for Glenn SandsBy Glenn Sands | July 20, 2022

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 24 seconds.

Bell’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) platforms have been the focus of its attendance at the Farnborough International Airshow, with the company promoting the capabilities of its candidates for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programs. The first-generation mockup of the V-280 Valor is the centerpiece of Bell’s presence, creating considerable interest among overseas defence officials.

During a media briefing at the event, Bell CEO Mitch Snyder praised the cooperation that had taken place between the company and the U.S. Army, saying that significant progress had been made with the FLRAA proposal. 

“We currently working through the CD&RR [Competitive Design and Risk Review] phase, which is taking it to the preliminary design review stage, and we have been working closely with our counterparts,” he said. “Many of the subsystems we have been finishing up in these areas. In addition, we have been preparing for the award announcement, which we anticipate very soon.”   

In anticipation of the announcement, Bell has established a digital manufacturing technology center. Snyder said the company was keen not only to develop the digital design of the aircraft but wanted to prepare the company to be ready to build the aircraft. Part of this work has seen Bell set up what Snyder calls “a factory of the future,” with a lot of focus on producing high-quality parts — first time, every time.

“We are not only looking at how we will design the aircraft, but how we will build it as well,” he said. “All this data is passed back to the manufacturing technology center, which allows us to adjust any processes to make them faster or act on any issues.”

He said Bell has focussed heavily on reducing risk across the FLRAA program.

“When the award comes, it will mean we will be ready to go and start building the aircraft at the price we said,” said Snyder.      

Keith Flail, executive vice president for advanced vertical lift systems at Bell, offered insight into more heavily armed models of the V-280 that that company has been examining.

“For several years with the full-scale mockup we have [in Farnborough], when we’ve been displaying it at a three-day event, we have reconfigured the mockup over those days to show it as a pure assault platform; or as a weapons platform with a roll-on roll-off capability, by putting weapons inside the aircraft, which can be actuated out when you engage a target and then brought back inside afterwards. Or, we have demonstrated a medevac configuration, where we have stretchers in the back or a surgical suite. We try to show its Swiss Army knife adaptability.”

It's likely that as production progresses on the V-280 Valor, specialised variants will be developed for the medevac and special operations missions. Photo Bell
It’s likely that as production progresses on the V-280 Valor, specialised variants will be developed for special operations missions. Bell Photo

Flail said Bell has continually engaged with the U.S. Army and some Allied nations that have been involved in medevac operations and with Special Operations Command. A lot of these discussions have led to possible later variants of the V-280 being developed. 

“But the main focus right now is on the use of the V-280 as an assault utility platform,” said Flail.                     

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