The V-22 Osprey is an iconic airplane — perhaps the most distinctive modern military plane that wasn’t made to release weapons. With two giant propellers that pivot, the V-22 can fly like an airplane but takeoff and land like a helicopter, making it more versatile than either category.
Right now, the V-22 is only used by the US Marine Corps and the Air Force, but the United States Army wants its next troop-carrying helicopter replacement to be a tiltrotor too.
The Army is already funding work on the V-280 Valor, which would work like an Osprey, and could also be adapted into an attack craft, too. This week, Bell Helicopter, the makers of the V-280 Valor pitched their new vehicle to the Navy, too.
But Bell’s vice president of advanced tiltrotor systems, Vince Tobin, told reporters at the show Tuesday that the company had already begun designing a V-280 variant that would fit aboard ships’ hangar decks in hopes of luring the Navy into buying the aircraft as well.
In the Navy variant, the wide wings rotate to better fit on a ship and the tail is anhedral, facing down, in contrast to the Army variant’s dihedral tail, Tobin said. “The purpose of the anhedral tail is not to have to fold the tail to get it out of the way of the folding wings,” he said.
The prospective Navy design is just a concept for now, but Tobin said it points to the flexibility available to the service.
As DoD Buzz reports, Tobin went on to say that putting a folding wing on the helicopter, as the Navy wants (in order to fit on aircraft carriers), means increasing the weight of the Valor by 12 percent. This limits how much it could carry in the future.
Already, the current design of the Valor has a maximum takeoff weight of 30,000 pounds, which is just more than half that of the V-22's 52,000 pounds. So the Valor's carrying capacity would decline even further if the wings were redesigned to fit on the Navy's aircraft carriers.
But the Navy may still want to go to a tiltrotor anyway. When the Army began looking for a new helicoper design, tiltrotor versatility won out over other concepts.
Besides carrying troops, the Army is considering using the Valor as a small attack helicopter, supplementing its existing fleet with a faster-flying craft. Speed isn't everything in battle, but it's a lot, and a chopper that can reach where it's needed faster does a lot. If the Navy is looking to upgrade their helicopter fleet, piggybacking on an Army project isn't the worst idea. Especially if you're Bell Helicopter.