Aviation wonks got a look Monday at the kind of aircraft that could become the primary workhorse for future conventional troops or commandos.
Bell Helicopter unveiled a full scale mockup of the new V-280 Valor concept at the Association of the United States Army meeting and expo. Its tilt-rotor design builds off of the currently deployed V-22 Osprey, which began with a troubled development stage but has become a primary tool for the Marine Corps and for Air Force special operations.
The annual three-day conference organized by AUSA, the primary advocacy group for the Army, serves as an opportunity for troops to network and for defense contractors to show off new technologies.
The third-generation aircraft is one extension of the military's Future Vertical Lift program and Joint Multi-Role helicopter, which are designed ultimately to find a replacement for the aging AH-64 Apache, the CH-47 Chinook, the OH-58 Kiowa and the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
The new aircraft's range will be between 500 and 2,000 nautical miles, depending on its combat load, and will cruise at roughly 280 knots. The Blackhawk, by comparison, cruises at roughly 140 knots. The Valor is expected to begin test flights in 2017.
The AUSA conference comes at a time of unprecedented budget strains on the Department of Defense. Congress has not passed a budget since fiscal year 2012, sequestration took effect in April and the government shutdown in October cost the Pentagon roughly $600 million.
Army Secretary John McHugh said Monday that all defense programs would likely be scrutinized for potential cuts.
"Name your favorite acquisition developmental program and it'll be probably be affected," he said.
These Vines offer a look inside the new aircraft concept.