Initially designed for the Marines, a smaller, more potent V-247 Vigilant recently designed by Bell Systems is aimed at meeting the US Navy’s shipboard requirements, writes Dan Parsons of The War Zone. He continues (abridged):
Bell has resurrected the unmanned V-247 Vigilant designed for the Marine Corps and scaled it down for use as a strike and surveillance aircraft aboard Navy ships, where the autonomous tiltrotor can fit in the same space as an MH-60R and perform any of the manned helicopter’s missions.
Designed as a contender for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Experimental, or MUX program, Bell’s V-247 Vigilant is now on offer to the larger sea service for the Future Vertical Lift Maritime Strike (FVL-MS) development effort. That called for shaving several thousand pounds from the aircraft’s fuselage and “right-sizing” the rotor blades, nacelles, and other elements of the aircraft to meet Navy requirements, Todd Worden, Bell’s senior manager for advanced vertical lift systems sales and strategy, told The War Zone. […]
Originally designed with a maximum gross weight of over 30,000 pounds, the 247 was downsized to about 28,000 pounds to satisfy Navy requirements, Worden said. An MH-60R, by comparison, has a maximum gross weight of 23,500 pounds. Reducing the 247’s weight was done primarily by shrinking the fuselage by eliminating excess fuel capacity required by the Marine-specific MUX program.
“That is a scalable area,” Worden said. “There is structure in there that can be scaled up and down depending upon what the Navy requirements are. So there’s still some agility that we have in the design of the aircraft. … It’s important to note that the aircraft itself, the wing structure, the nacelles, the blades, and things like that, were resized, but the wingspan really didn’t change. To optimize the endurance of the aircraft, to get the most endurance out of it that we could, we wanted to maintain the length of the wing. We want to get as much glide as we can.”
One of the driving factors in the V-247’s design was fitting it inside the hangar of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, which would ensure it could deploy on any of the Navy’s helicopter-capable vessels. As designed, the 247 could provide massive capability enhancements across a wide spectrum of operations down to a Frigate-sized ship. Bell strove to retain the basic wing size and foldability of the MUX-sized Vigilant, Worden said. […]
To accomplish the naval strike mission, the 247 will have several armament options mounted to the cheeks of the fuselage, stowed in an internal weapons bay, or hung from the wings on pylons. The MUX version came with conformal belly pods that could carry electronic warfare equipment or AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Bell has previously shown a model of V-247 an anti-submarine warfare configuration with a side-mounted sonobuoy launcher.
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