Future conflicts will favor faster, nimbler military forces—think precision strikes and special ops. “The military needs assets that allow them to project their combat power more rapidly,” says Keith Flail, a program director at Bell Helicopter. It needs an aircraft that can hover for tactical maneuvers but also conquer the “tyranny of distance.”
The V-280 Valor could do just that. Its tilt-rotor design allows the craft to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, or pitch its rotors forward to fly horizontally, like a turboprop plane. It stands to be safer and more agile than its clunky cousin, the V-22 Osprey. And at twice the speed and combat range of the Army’s current workhorse, the Black Hawk helicopter, the V-280 could vastly extend the reach of U.S. ground forces.
Bell Helicopter’s design is vying for the top spot in the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program, which aims to develop a family of next-generation rotorcraft. If chosen, the V-280, or something like it, could be navigating the skies by 2030.
This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Popular Science.