Bell engineers completely “disassembled” their V-280 tiltrotor aircraft to ensure the platform can operate at peak performance for decades. Reliability and lifespan, coupled with an ability to be continuously upgraded over time, are key parameters likely to be assessed by Army decision makers analyzing multiple industry bids for the program. Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), an Army effort to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Bell disassembled a V-280 Valor that had been flying for some time to evaluate and fine-tune its durability and performance.
“When we disassembled the aircraft, which we did from March, we found the gearboxes to be normal. There was no excessive wear. In other words, our approach to the construction of the gearboxes as well as all the other components of the aircraft was solid – we had actually built the extra gearboxes of the propeller rotor, extra blades, we never had to use them” said retired Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president of strategic pursuits at Bell’s Advanced Vertical Lift Center.During his thirty-four-year military career, Schlosser commanded the famed 101st Airborne Division of the Army.
Part of the rationale for stripping the aircraft was to ensure long-term reliability, which of course greatly improves survivability by preventing in-flight malfunctions or mission failure in combat.
According to the Bell developers, the technological premise for building the aircraft is a modular open systems architecture engineering approach. Essentially, this approach ensures a common Internet protocol, interfaces, and data standards, which are intended to enable rapid, low-risk integration of upgrades and sustainment enhancements. These often take the form of software upgrades or adjustments to electronics, mission systems, and command and control systems. The pace of modernization, especially with computer processing, AI-enabled systems and sensors, is so accelerated that Bell engineers focused on designing the new V-280 with sufficient technical infrastructure to ensure long-term scalability and reliability. This ability to quickly upgrade and improve aircraft parts, systems and technology also greatly improves safety, especially when anticipated component failures can be determined well in advance of any malfunction.
These advancements not only ensure successful modernization, but also significantly improve the survivability of the aircraft.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.