MEET THE V-247 VIGILANT
V-247 Vigilant Concept Art – This is a tiltrotor drone with missiles, marketed at the Marine Corps. – Image @Bell Helicopter
Runways are a hassle. Long, flat strips of unobstructed land are work to defend at the best of times, and can’t always be found in rugged terrain or on small islands. Yet having a fixed-wing plane fly air support is useful, because plane bodies are faster and much more efficient than helicopters. What’s the Marine Corps to do?
If you ask Bell Helicopter, the answer is obvious: a brand-new tiltrotor drone, unveiled today before a crowd of media and experts at that National Press Club in Washington, DC.
This is the V-247 Vigilant. The drone has a maximum speed of 345 mph, though it cruises most efficiently at 205 mph. It can fly at an altitude of up to 25,000 feet, can carry up to 2,000 pounds internally, and has a maximum flight time of 17 hours or a maximum range of 1,600 statute miles (though it can’t do all of this simultaneously). Bell provides an example mission of one where it carries a 600-pound payload to a target 500 miles away, hangs around for several hours, and then returns. And “target” here is key: the Vigilant isn’t just a scout. As designed, it can fire missiles, including Hellfires and its expected replacement, the Joint Air Ground Missile. It can also carry Mk50 torpedoes, making it deadly to enemies in the sea, as well as on land.
The Vigilant weighs 16,000 pounds empty, 29,500 pounds filled to the brim with something slung beneath it, and it has a wingspan of 65 feet with a 30-foot rotor diameter. Two V-247 Vigilants can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster transport, helping them get to where they’re needed. That makes the Vigilant about half the size of the troop-carrying V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, which is small for a plane but still a Group 5 drone for the military, which includes the heaviest and fastest drones.
Bell says it can start producing the V-247 as early 2023, and designed it to meet the needs of the Marine Corps. If the Corps bites, and if the Vigilant works as promised, by the end of the next decade Marines could fly into battle inside tiltrotor V-22s and request air support from tiltrotor V-247 drones, while at the same time soldiers from the Army arrive in Bell’s plannedV-280 Valor transport.
Original post @popsci.com
Bell Helicopter introduces Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor
The Bell V-247 Vigilant is a solution designed to address the evolving demands of the military and transportation sectors for unmanned aircraft for a shipborne UAS platform. Bell Helicopter Photo
Posted on September 22, 2016; Bell Helicopter Press Release
Speaking before an audience of aviation and military experts assembled at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Bell Helicopter today unveiled the Bell V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor.
The Bell V-247 tiltrotor is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. The revolutionary UAS is designed to provide unmatched long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability and lethal reach, as well as runway independence to operate successfully in maritime environments and locations without secure runway availability.
The Bell V-247 Vigilant satisfies the comprehensive spectrum of capabilities outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Aviation Plan, and could be available for production as early as 2023. The Bell V-247 Vigilant is a solution designed to address the evolving demands of the military and transportation sectors for unmanned aircraft for a shipborne UAS platform, including:
- The ability to operate successfully without a runway, such as in maritime environments
- Seamless performance in locations without secure runway availability, such as at shrinking land bases in contested areas
- Significant reduction of the logistical footprint while retaining the superior operational performance by combining the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft
- The capacity to control the battle space effectively with 24-hour intelligence provided by unmatched long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability
A Group 5 UAS, the Bell V-247 Vigilant is designed to combine unparalleled capability with unprecedented flexibility to execute a wide array of mission sets, including electronic warfare, ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), escort, C4 (command, control, communications, and computers), persistent fire missions and tactical distribution. The UAS is expected to accomplish all of this with the benefits of extended endurance through plug-and-play mission packages.
“The Bell V-247 Vigilant is the next leap in innovation making the future of aviation a reality today – it’s a testament to the power and versatility of tiltrotor flight,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO at Bell Helicopter. “At Bell Helicopter, we are constantly challenging the traditional notion of what it means to fly by staying on the leading edge of aviation and technological development. The unmanned tiltrotor is the latest example of how we are changing the way the world flies, taking our customers into the dynamic world of next-generation aircraft.”
- The Bell V-247 Vigilant’s design boasts a number of unrivaled capabilities and transformational features, including:
- A sea-based platform, which can be sized for compatibility with DDG guided missile destroyers shipboard applications
- Single engine tiltrotor unmanned aerial system
- 24-hour persistent ISR with a two aircraft system
- Speed: 250 knots cruise speed; 180 knots endurance speed; >300 knots at maximum continuous power
- Combat range: 450 nautical miles mission radius
- Time on station: 11 hours
- Size: 16,000 pounds empty weight / 29,500 pounds max gross weight; 65-feet wing span; 30-feet rotor diameter
- As it sits on the deck, the V-247 Vigilant can hold a combination of fuel, armament, and sensors, up to 13,000 pounds
- Blade Fold Wing Stow makes V-247 Vigilant DDG hangar compatible
- Expeditionary capability with small logistical footprint
- Open architecture and interfaces
- Air-to-air refueling
- Modular payload system to provide maximum flexibility
- Power distribution system to provide maximum mission capability
- Redundant flight control system
- Electro Optical System and Targeting System
The Bell V-247 Vigilant offers a dynamic profile that is uniquely suited to complete highly versatile operations and support missions. It is designed to provide extended range flying from land or ship, matchless expeditionary capabilities and to remain on-station with heightened loiter times for extended periods. With its signature blade fold wing stow design, it will fit inside a DDG hangar space, and two can be loaded on a C-17 aircraft. The open architecture of the modular payload system enhances flexibility for aircraft customization by mission type. The bays on the Bell V-247 Vigilant are designed to carry high definition sensors, fuel, sonar buoys, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) modules, 360-degree surface radar modules, an MK-50 torpedo or Hellfire or JAGM missiles optimally. Regardless of the need, the Bell V-247 Vigilant easily integrates into priority mission sets to complete multiple airborne requirements.
“Leveraging lessons learned from our extensive history and experience with tiltrotors, we have found the best available solution to fulfill the Marine Corps need for a Group 5 UAS,” said Vince Tobin, vice president, advanced tiltrotor systems at Bell Helicopter. “The Bell V-247 Vigilant will give military customers the capabilities needed to reduce the complexity of deployment, increase speed of employment, reduce mission times and increase response time – all critical elements to completing missions to save lives and protect our freedom.”
Bell Helicopter utilized its decades of applied tiltrotor experience to develop this next generation UAS. The Bell V-247 Vigilant design and capabilities bring to bear experience from the V-22 tiltrotor program and UH-1Y/AH-1Z programs, capturing the V-280 Valor’s unmatched design and performance standards in order to provide unparalleled competency to support ship-board compatibility.