US Army chooses replacement for Apache and Black Hawk helicopters
The US Army has chosen defense contractor Bell Textron to build its next generation of attack and utility helicopters, selecting a radically different design to replace its Apache and Black Hawk models.
Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter is scheduled to start going into service around 2030 and will eventually replace its predecessors, that have been produced since the 1970s, according to an army statement on Monday. The initial contract is valued at up to $1.3 billion if all options are exercised, which would lead to replacing 1,200 Apache attack helicopters and 2,000 Blackhawk utility helicopters.
Bell Textron could eventually gross around $70 billion if a “full complement” of new helicopters is purchased, US Army Major General Robert Barrie told reporters on Monday.
The company was chosen to build the so-called Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) ahead of Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky unit.
Unlike the more traditional-looking Apache, the V-280 features swiveling rotors and engines at opposite ends of a large front wing, allowing it to take off vertically like a helicopter and fly horizontally like an airplane. Its V-shaped tail section has no rotor and looks more like the back of a fighter jet. The design is similar to that of the V-22 Osprey, used by the US Air Force.
The V-280 has double the speed and range of the Apache and Black Hawk. It’s designed to have a cruising speed of 280 knots (322 miles per hour) and a combat range of up to 800 nautical miles (920 miles). The army reportedly aims to achieve an average unit price of $43 million, more than double the cost of a Black Hawk.