Extraordinary new military technology has been unveiled in the United States, with Bell taking the wraps off its V-247 Vigilant design.
A combined tiltrotor and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) concept, the astonishing V-247 Vigilant harnesses the US aerospace manufacturer’s experience in both fields.
The Bell V-247 Vigilant’s introduction occurred at the National Press Club, located in Washington, during late September 2016. Displayed to those present were both a model and a demonstration of how the real aircraft’s wings and rotors would fold up for storage purposes: more information on this latter feature follows.
“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”, comments Bell Helicopter’s CEO and president, Mitch Snyder. “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.”
Bell V-247 Vigilant
What, exactly, inspired the V-247’s creation?
The US military, says Bell, needs unmanned technologies that can operate from short runways, are cost-effective, can perform extended missions and require only limited storage space. The V-247, it claims, ticks all these boxes. What’s more, Bells believes the USMC could be a key Vigilant customer since no other force seems nearer right now to releasing next-gen unmanned system specifications that closely match the new tiltrotor’s qualities.
In other words, the potential’s there for the V-247 Vigilant to very much meet ‘the comprehensive spectrum of capabilities outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Aviation Plan.’ That could secure it a major order in years ahead.
Bell V-247 Capabilities
Generally-speaking, the Bell V-247 Vigilant will combine ‘unparalleled capability with unprecedented flexibility to execute a wide range of missions, including ISR, escort or persistent fire missions’. More specifically, such missions will include air-to-ground strikes – using Hellfire or JAGM missiles – AEW (Airborne Early Warning), ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), EW (Electronic Warfare) and protecting other airborne assets, like the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Just like the Osprey, the V-247 Vigilant is equipped with engine nacelles positioned at the end of its wings that rotate in order to change the direction of flight. It’s this feature that gives both designs their ‘tiltrotor’ designation.
Cruising at more than 300 knots, the V-247 will have a maximum endurance of around the 17-hour mark. Able to accommodate 2,000 pounds of internal payload, it’ll have the capacity to lift a further 9,000 pounds externally. Superior mission endurance will be achieved when the Vigilant is flying at 178 knots but it’ll be able to cruise at some 300 knots. Its projected service ceiling is 25,000 feet and its maximum mission radius, 1,400 nautical miles.
Two V-247s, deployed together, will by loitering for a combined 24 hours, provide ‘persistent ISR’, Bell says, while post-mission, the type can be folded-up to become a Bell UH-1Y’s size. A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft can accommodate two V-247 Vigilants within its main cabin if they’re in this folded-up configuration.
Group 5 UAS
Class-wise, the V-247 Vigilant be what’s known as a ‘Group 5’ UAS, ranking it alongside the largest and most capable UAVs in US military service today. Within the Department of Defense’s classification, a Group 1 ‘drone’ weighs up to 20 pounds, flies at up to 1,200 feet above ground level and has a maximum airspeed of 100 knots. Within that category are the likes of the RQ-11 Raven and WASP designs. At the other end of the spectrum lie the Group 5 systems, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-4C Triton. These all weigh more than 1,320 pounds, fly at more than 18,000 feet above ground level and aren’t airspeed-limited.
“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,” states Bell Helicopter’s advanced tiltrotor systems vice president, Vince Tobin. “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.”
Military Business Network intends to provide further coverage of this state-of-the-art unmanned technology at a later stage in its development programme.
Bell V-247 Vigilant: Key Facts
||Multirole unmanned tiltrotor
1,400 nautical miles
Hellfire and Joint Air-To-Ground missiles
All V-247 Vigilant images copyright/courtesy Bell Helicopter