|Posted by Omar Bilonashvili on September 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM|
At the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Bell helicopter has unveiled its new V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor drone for the US Marine Corps. Like the company's V-22 Osprey, the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) can lift off and hover like a helicopter, yet has the range and speed of a fixed-wing aircraft. According to Bell, the Vigilant can carry out combat reconnaissance missions from land bases without runways or from small ships with flight decks.
Bell says that the V-247 is intended to fit the capabilities required by the 2016 Marine Corps Aviation Plan and, if approved, could be in production by 2023. It has enough endurance for a pair of the aircraft to keep a target under surveillance for 24 hours a day, yet has a small logistical footprint. In addition, it has air-to-air refueling capability, a redundant flight control system, and an Electro Optical System and Targeting System.
Based on Bell's earlier work on the V-22 and the V-280 Valor, it combines the strengths of a helicopter and an fixed-wing airplane, and can fold its rotors so fits into the hangar of a US DDG guided missile destroyer. Its open architecture, modular design provides a high degree of flexibility with bays that allow it to carry extra fuel, high-definition sensors, sonar buoys, lidar, radar, and a combination of MK-50 torpedoes, or Hellfire and JAGM missiles.
According to Bell, the single-motor V-247 has retractable landing gear and can carry payloads of up to 2,000 to 9,000 lb (907 to 4,100 kg), depending on how they're stowed. It has a cruising speed of 240 kts (276 mph, 444 km/h), a maximum altitude of 25,000 ft (7,620 m), and a range of up to 1,400 nm (1,600 mi, 2,600 km) with an endurance of up to 17 hours. This allows it to not only provide 24-hour surveillance when used in pairs, but also to act as escorts for the V-22 or V-280.
One key point about the V-22 is its mission flexibility. Bell says that it can carry out any Group 5 UAS mission, which puts it on the same footing as the MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and MQ-4C Triton. It can conduct electronic warfare; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); escort flights; Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4); and persistent fire missions. In addition, it as autonomous flight capability, can carry out day or night picket duties, and provide early warning of incoming threats.