V-247 Tiltrotor Drone Downsized For Strike Position Aboard Navy Ships


Bell has resurrected the unmanned V-247 Vigilant designed for the Marine Corps and scaled it down to be used as a strike and surveillance plane aboard Navy ships, the place the autonomous tiltrotor can slot in the identical house as an MH-60R and carry out any of the manned helicopter’s missions. 

Designed as a contender for the Marine Air-Floor Job Pressure (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Experimental, or MUX program, Bell’s V-247 Vigilant is now on provide to the bigger sea service for the Future Vertical Elevate Maritime Strike (FVL-MS) improvement effort. That referred to as for shaving a number of thousand kilos from the plane’s fuselage and “right-sizing” the rotor blades, nacelles, and different components of the plane to fulfill Navy necessities, Todd Worden, Bell’s senior supervisor for superior tiltrotor techniques, informed The Warfare Zone.

Vigilant’s rotor blades and nacelles have been “right-sized” to hold a smaller, lighter fuselage that meets the Navy’s want for an unmanned maritime strike functionality. Bell picture

“That was a big plane that might do an entire lot of missions,” Worden stated of MUX. “Lots of them had been very tough to do, however we sized the 247 to fulfill these missions. It had a distinct set of missions, and we reevaluated how large the plane was, and had been in a position to right-size the plane or the Navy. What that did is made the compatibility with the cruiser, the destroyers, that a lot better, by getting the scale down, so now it’s extremely similar to an plane that is at the moment launched into these service combatants, the 60 Romeo.”

Initially designed with a most gross weight of over 30,000 kilos, the 247 was downsized to about 28,000 kilos to fulfill Navy necessities, Worden stated. An MH-60R, by comparability, has a most gross weight of 23,500 kilos. Decreasing the 247’s weight was completed primarily by shrinking the fuselage by eliminating extra gas capability required by the Marine-specific MUX program. 

“That may be a scalable space,” Worden stated. “There may be construction in there that may be scaled up and down relying upon what the Navy necessities are. So there’s nonetheless some agility that we now have within the design of the plane. … It is necessary to notice that the plane itself, the wing construction, the nacelles, the blades, and issues like that, had been resized, however the wingspan actually did not change. To optimize the endurance of the plane, to get probably the most endurance out of it that we might, we needed to take care of the size of the wing. We need to get as a lot glide as we are able to.”

One of many driving components within the V-247’s design was becoming it contained in the hangar of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, which might guarantee it might deploy on any of the Navy’s helicopter-capable vessels. As designed, the 247 might present huge functionality enhancements throughout a large spectrum of operations right down to a Frigate-sized ship. Bell strove to retain the essential wing dimension and foldability of the MUX-sized Vigilant, Worden stated.

An earlier rendering of the V-247 reveals it firing a Hellfire missile from its inside weapons bay. Bell picture

“The wing construction, which is the place quite a lot of the magic occurs, and the nacelles, quite a lot of that was was comparatively unchanged from the MUX as a result of that basically was the key to getting the lengthy endurance and the velocity vary of the plane and the wing is sized to the scale of a DDG hangar.”

MUX initially was designed to suit the identical bodily footprint as a UH-1Y Venom helicopter and supply the Marines with a “Group 5” unmanned plane — drones with a most takeoff weight of better than 1,320 kilos that may fly at altitudes of 18,000 toes or larger. Congress was not smitten by this system and reduce many of the funding for MUX from the Marine Corps funds in fiscal yr 2020. 

The Marines needed MUX to have a minimal inside payload capability of three,000 kilos, the power to hold between 3,000 to 9,000 kilos of weapons or different shops externally, a cruising velocity between 230 and 345 miles per hour, an unrefueled fight radius of 350 to 700 miles, and the power to refuel in flight.

Bell’s authentic full-scale mockup of the Marine Corps MUX providing on the Fashionable Day Marine expo in Quantic Virginia. Bell photograph

Vigilant’s long-range cruise is now listed as 240 knots with a most steady cruising velocity of 300 knots. Its redesigned inside mission payload is 2,000 kilos and has a 9,000-pound slingload capability. 

MUX was aimed toward offering the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) its personal airborne early warning functionality, air reconnaissance, digital warfare, communications relay, offensive air help, scout and aerial escort, and cargo utility all with an unmanned plane that might take off and land vertically from the deck of a ship or a small, distant touchdown zone.

The Navy remains to be contemplating choices for its maritime strike techniques underneath an evaluation of options that can finally solidify the service’s necessities for changing each the MH-60R and the MQ-8C Fireplace Scout. Within the request for info launched final yr, the Navy listed FVL-MS missions as follows:

  • Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Focusing on (ISR&T)
  • Floor Warfare (SUW)
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
  • Mine Counter Measures (MCM)
  • Air Warfare (AW)
  • Digital Warfare (EW)
  • Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Command and Management
  • SOF Assist

To perform the naval strike mission, the 247 may have a number of armament choices mounted to the cheeks of the fuselage, stowed in an inside weapons bay, or hung from the wings on pylons. The MUX model got here with conformal stomach pods that might carry digital warfare gear or AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Bell has beforehand proven a mannequin of V-247 an anti-submarine warfare configuration with a side-mounted sonobuoy launcher.

A mannequin of a V-247 configured for anti-submarine warfare missions. Joseph Trevithick

A full-size mockup Bell displayed at varied protection commerce reveals was geared up with varied configurations of underwing weapons mounting together with Hellfire missiles and Textron Fury glide bombs. New imagery reveals the plane carrying cheek-mounted Joint Strike Missiles, developed as standoff anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile. This could give the V-247 a outstanding over-the-horizon fight punch.

As Bell waits on the Navy to complete its AoA, funding within the design and manufacturing of V-247 and different superior tiltrotor capabilities has continued, Worden stated. Throughout MUX, the corporate constructed a half-span mannequin, spars, and gas cells and spent a number of months validating the designs’ aerodynamics in a wind tunnel.

“Lots of that we had been in a position to leverage shifting ahead with the maritime strike,” Worden stated. “If something, as a result of the fuselage is slendered down fairly a bit, really the efficiency is up in all probability as a result of our drag is down.” 

Carl Forsling, Bell’s senior supervisor of superior navy packages gross sales and technique stated issues with arming tiltrotors with forward-firing munitions are partially solved by the 247’s autonomous flight controls. Experiments starting in 2013 confirmed {that a} V-22 Osprey could possibly be geared up with belly- or cheek-mounted ordinance, he stated. Plane and weapons know-how has superior since then to permit capabilities like missiles being fired off-axis, eliminating the necessity for a tiltrotor to transition out of airplane mode to fireplace wing-mounted munitions in some situations. Autonomous flight can even enable the Vigilant to extra effectively transition from ahead flight to a partial hover, decreasing the time it’s weak to enemy air defenses. 

“If the pc is aware of what the goal is, is aware of what the situation of the plane must be when it will get to that focus on, then we’ll discover probably the most environment friendly strategy to get to that time, then transition the rotor system between ahead flight and a firing situation is an especially quick transition,” Forsling stated. “We’re speaking seconds to have the ability to do the transition, fireplace the weapon system after which after which return to the ahead flight mode.”

Each the Navy and Marine Corps are fixated on establishing new and more-advanced autonomous shipboard unmanned functionality. Bell’s V-280 Valor, which demonstrated a stage of autonomous flight late in its improvement, and Sikorsky’s Defiant X compound coaxial helicopter are potential choices for a manned model of FVL-MS, as effectively. The Warfare Zone will keep on prime of the Navy’s particular FVL necessities as they’re finalized and made public. 

Contact the writer: dan@thewarzone.com


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