Bell Helicopter, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on September 22, unveiled the Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor, an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that, according to the company, will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.
Introduced in a ship-borne design, Bell states the unmanned aircraft could be available for production as early as 2023. The company says it leveraged decades of applied tiltrotor experience to develop this next generation UAS. This includes design and capabilities experience gained from the V-22 tiltrotor program and UH-1Y/AH-1Z programs, while leveraging the V-280 Valor’s design and performance standards to support ship-board compatibility.
Bell explains the V-247 Vigilant is designed to provide “unmatched long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability and lethal reach.” The aircraft will also hold runway independence to operate in maritime environments and locations without available secure runways.
The Bell V-247 Vigilant is designed in large part to satisfy the capabilities outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Aviation Plan, addressing the demands of the military and transportation sectors for unmanned aircraft for a shipborne UAS platform, including:
• The ability to operate successfully without a runway, such as in maritime environments;
• Performance in locations without secure runway availability, such as at shrinking land bases in contested areas;
• Reduction of the logistical footprint while retaining operational performance by combining the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft; and
• Capacity to control a battle space effectively with 24-hour intelligence provided by long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability.
Categorized as a Group 5 UAS, Bell explains the V-247 Vigilant is designed for a range of mission sets, including electronic warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), escort, C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computers), persistent fire missions and tactical distribution. The UAS is expected to leverage what Bell describes as plug-and-play mission packages.
“The Bell V-247 Vigilant is the next leap in innovation making the future of aviation a reality today – it’s a testament to the power and versatility of tiltrotor flight,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO, Bell Helicopter. “At Bell Helicopter, we are constantly challenging the traditional notion of what it means to fly by staying on the leading edge of aviation and technological development.”
The V-247 Vigilant is suited to complete what Bell describes as highly versatile operations and support missions, with extended range flying from land or ship, expeditionary capabilities, and the ability to remain on-station with heightened loiter times for extended periods.
Featuring a signature blade fold wing stow design, the V-247 Vigilant will fit inside a DDG hangar space and two can be loaded on a C-17 aircraft. The open architecture of the modular payload system allows for aircraft customization by mission type. The bays on the Bell V-247 Vigilant, explains Bell, are designed to carry high definition sensors, fuel, sonar buoys, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) modules, 360-degree surface radar modules, an MK-50 torpedo or Hellfire or JAGM missiles optimally.
“Leveraging lessons learned from our extensive history and experience with tiltrotors, we have found the best available solution to fulfill the Marine Corps need for a Group 5 UAS,” said Vince Tobin, vice president, advanced tiltrotor systems at Bell Helicopter. “The Bell V-247 Vigilant will give military customers the capabilities needed to reduce the complexity of deployment, increase speed of employment, reduce mission times and increase response time – all critical elements to completing missions to save lives and protect our freedom.”
Including some of the highlights mentioned above Bell provides the following list of “unrivalled capabilities and transformational features” of the V-247 Vigilant’s design, including:
• A sea-based platform, which can be sized for compatibility with DDG guided missile destroyers shipboard applications;
• Single engine tiltrotor unmanned aerial system;
• 24-hour persistent ISR with a two aircraft system;
• Speed: 250 knots cruise speed; 180 knots endurance speed; >300 knots at maximum continuous power
• Combat range: 450 nautical miles mission radius;
• Time on station: 11 hours;
• Size: 16,000 pounds empty weight / 29,500 pounds max gross weight; 65-feet wing span; 30-feet rotor diameter;
• As it sits on the deck, the V-247 Vigilant can hold a combination of fuel, armament, and sensors, up to 13,000 pounds;
• Blade Fold Wing Stow makes V-247 Vigilant DDG hangar compatible;
• Expeditionary capability with small logistical footprint;
• Open architecture and interfaces;
• Air-to-air refueling;
• Modular payload system to provide maximum flexibility;
• Power distribution system to provide maximum mission capability;
• Redundant flight control system;
• Electro Optical System and Targeting System.
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