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Bell Textron Valor wins FLRAA contest for Blackhawk replacement.


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On 12/8/2022 at 7:19 PM, seahawk said:

A small and light helicopter, is a small and light helicopter. It comes with less range and less endurance. On the other hand it can land, where bigger helicopters can not. In addition the power to weight ratio is quite good and the firepower is also not too bad for such a small bird.

And they are cheaper, so you can have more of them. And as the most requent roles for a helo in conventional land warfare is likely to be CASEVAC/MEDEVAC and moving around brigade commanders and higher, cheap (but good enough for those roles) would be very high on my list of priorities, followed by hauling cargo on our side of the FLOT. Optimizing a CH or CV for suicidal air assault would probably be at the bottom of the list. Unless it's colonial policing what we want to optimize for. Sneaky SOCOM missions and CSAR would probably be at the middle of the list. But at least for the CSAR-mission, a unmanned tiltrotor might be the best option. Something that can get the job done quickly, without risking the lives of the crew, and without it ending up with a huge mission like Bat 21 Bravo or the rescue of Scott O'Grady.

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5 hours ago, seahawk said:

I think especially CSAR is way too fluid and complex to use an unmanned vehicle. Unmanned vehicles will be fist used for typical milk runs and simple resupply missions.

True. But my understanding with CSAR, is that if you can get their quicker you can get there, the easier it gets. ISTR cases in the Gulf and (and somewhere in the Balkans?) where CH's happend to be airborne or on standby close enough, that all it took was that single CH, and whatever fixed wing aircrafts, that was in the vincinity, to get the job done. If it takes longer, you need to bring riflemen, AH's, CAS, FAC, ground, spare helos for extraction, SEAD, figher escort, AEW, tankers and so on. In the case of Scott O'Grady 4xCH-53, 4xAH-1W's, 4xAV-8B's, 2xEA-6B's, 2xEF-111A's, 2xF/A-18D's, 2xA-10A's, 1xSH-60Band 1xE-3D. Not including the SEAD, fighter escorts and tankers. And suddenly it's a mission, that is just not going to happen vs. a peer or near peer opponent. If one could have a unmanned tiltrotor in the area (eighter flying on its own, or deployed if needed from cargo plane or possibly even being droped from a combat aircraft, you might at least get some pilots out, without having to risk other personel or expensive manned airframes.

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20 hours ago, shep854 said:

 

That's a great vid.  Crazy how old the UH-60 and V-22 are (feels like yesterday the V-22 started service).  I wonder if the age of the UH-60 is why it was hard to find data on accidents/deaths per 100k flight hours for when it first started flying?

Couple good points made in that vid.  @Burncycle360 The image at 14:42 really highlights the range advantage the Valor has over the Black Hawk.  Reinforces that point you were making about how ops in the Pacific may be driving this decision.

I can also confirm the bit about medevac ops.  I heard several stories from my old unit of flights in Iraq where they had a critical patient and the medic was telling the pilot to punch it.  When they were being escorted by Apaches the pilots basically told those guys "sorry... we gotta go" and left them behind (all the guys I talked to preferred being escorted by another medevac as it could keep up and if need be assist if they went down).  I can only imagine the medevac community is drooling at the thought of getting a frame that's this much faster and can fly that much further than a Black Hawk.

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34 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Its just the usual anglo american fixation on designing weapon systems that suit themselves, and neglect that its nothing anyone else wants. This strikes me as a first rate way to kill American helicopter production inside a generation.

 

The same way they did with their submarine and surface combatant production, with even the US opting for foreign design when they needed a affordable surface combatant, to replace the largly useless and over priced LCS. And the V-22 is obviously nothing else than a total failure in the export market eighter, having only sold 17 birds to one customer. Truly poor compared to the sales of the AW101, S-92 and CH-47 in the same time frame. And I would argue that the biggest limit to helicopters is generally not speed or range, but cost. Sure, this thing might be very useful in some niche roles, but for most missions, having a far greater number of H-47/60/72's is the superior choise. Or just use C-130's with paratroopers for long distance unopposed troop insertions in the PTO.

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The Bell offering was absolutely the right choice here. 

 

I know there are a lot of folks who get a bad taste in their mouth from tilt-rotors, after all the V-22 crashes and the fact that they don't glide or autorotate particularly well, etc.  Obviously, tilt-rotors have a host of technical problems, and while it's fair to say that Bell has taken great strides in resolving those, the concept is still a very complex one with lots of moving parts and complexity.

And be that as it may, tilt-rotors are still far more proven than Sikorsky's ABC concept at this point.  I don't think that a lot of the people scratching their heads over this decision realize how radical a design the Defiant is.  It has a rigid rotor hub.  Not "rigid" like what Eurocopter means when they use the term, which doesn't mean rigid at all.  No, the rotor hubs are designed to be actually rigid.  The rotors don't flap or hunt, they just feather.  There's no hinges, no teeter-totters, no elastomer-sprung compliant mechanisms, that sucker is rigid.

The significance of this is that they have to re-think everything.  And I do mean everything.  Even autogyros have flapping rotor hubs; the Defiant is taking everything learned about rotorcraft blade hub design since the 1920s and chucking it out a window.  This leads to enormous emergent technical problems, such as vibrations so intense that they can't simply be isolated, but which need to be actively cancelled out with a system of computer-controlled electrical shakers just like the ones in your girlfriend's... xbox controller.  The bending moments on the rotors and the hubs are exceptional, and require both to be made out of exotic composites (some sort of boron-skinned thing last I checked) because these things are absolutely not normal helicopters.

I think the ABC technology is promising, and there are a few roles where I would expect it to pants a tiltrotor once the technology is mature.  But that's the key; this technology is nowhere near mature at all right now, and the tiltrotor is the safer, lower-risk, common-sense choice.

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1 hour ago, Olof Larsson said:

The same way they did with their submarine and surface combatant production, with even the US opting for foreign design when they needed a affordable surface combatant, to replace the largly useless and over priced LCS. And the V-22 is obviously nothing else than a total failure in the export market eighter, having only sold 17 birds to one customer. Truly poor compared to the sales of the AW101, S-92 and CH-47 in the same time frame. And I would argue that the biggest limit to helicopters is generally not speed or range, but cost. Sure, this thing might be very useful in some niche roles, but for most missions, having a far greater number of H-47/60/72's is the superior choise. Or just use C-130's with paratroopers for long distance unopposed troop insertions in the PTO.

Yep. 

If they want this for SF, I get it. But replacing Blackhawk across the range? It's a Cadillac, when they really want a Jeep.

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1 hour ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Yep. 

If they want this for SF, I get it. But replacing Blackhawk across the range? It's a Cadillac, when they really need lots and lots of Jeeps.

FIFY

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1 hour ago, Loopycrank said:

I know there are a lot of folks who get a bad taste in their mouth from tilt-rotors, after all the V-22 crashes and the fact that they don't glide or autorotate particularly well, etc.  Obviously, tilt-rotors have a host of technical problems, and while it's fair to say that Bell has taken great strides in resolving those, the concept is still a very complex one with lots of moving parts and complexity.
 

Just to be clear, tiltrotors can autorotate, if the disc loading is kept to a reasonable value. The V-22 is like a fat chick in yoga pants; something's gotta give.

Had DOD fielded a TR of similar size to the XV-15, we would be in a different world.

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25 minutes ago, Ivanhoe said:

Just to be clear, tiltrotors can autorotate, if the disc loading is kept to a reasonable value. The V-22 is like a fat chick in yoga pants; something's gotta give.

Had DOD fielded a TR of similar size to the XV-15, we would be in a different world.

Good point.  Tiltrotors can both autorotate and glide... just not terribly well due to high loading of the aero surfaces in most cases.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Apparently the Bell Textron’s Valor tiltrotor is not very compliant for the door gunner positions and they might face a real problem there. 

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45 minutes ago, Colin said:

Apparently the Bell Textron’s Valor tiltrotor is not very compliant for the door gunner positions and they might face a real problem there. 

That's a problem with all tilt-rotor aircraft, as the door gunner can fire into the rotors. It's the reason why tilt rotor aircraft are a failed design concept.

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5 hours ago, Colin said:

Apparently the Bell Textron’s Valor tiltrotor is not very compliant for the door gunner positions and they might face a real problem there. 

A quibble.  Train gunners not to deploy side guns until the prop/rotor translates into helo mode.  The aircraft will be moving too fast in airplane mode for a door gun to be in any way useful anyway.

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5 hours ago, TrustMe said:

That could work, although in hover mode the engine nacelles are so big they will still restrict fields of fire.

Not with the Valor, since the engines are fixed; only the rotors move.  The engines would be a problem with the V-22.

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Since Bell Textron won (for the time being, anyway) the FLRAA contract, I wonder what their chances are of winning the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) competition. The Army may decide that awarding both contracts to the same company is politically unworkable, technical merits aside. 

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14 hours ago, shep854 said:

Not with the Valor, since the engines are fixed; only the rotors move.  The engines would be a problem with the V-22.

I was thinking about the CV22, maybe a new design would be difrerent.

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