Army's New Combat Aircraft Arrives in 2031

The Bell V-280 Valor has successfully met the final crucial performance criteria in the Army's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration program, demonstrating its capability to execute sophisticated, low-speed agility operations.

The U.S. Army's Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLARA) plan to field an initial unit with the capability is delayed by one year due to Lockheed Martin's protest over the service's choice of Textron Bell's advanced tiltrotor design. The FLRAA competition pitted Bell's V-280 Valor against Sikorsky and Boeing's Defiant X, which features coaxial rotor blades. Bell is a subsidiary of Textron, and Sikorsky is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin.


The Army chose Bell's design in late 2022, and Sikorsky filed a protest following the decision with the Government Accountability Office. The GAO rejected the protest in April 2023. Despite the protest disruption, the team is working steadily on the program, with Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen at the Army Aviation Association of America summit stated that the first unit will be equipped with the capability in fiscal 2031.


Bell is working on the preliminary design of the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft's production version, which is critical for the program to enter the engineering and manufacturing development phase in the third quarter of 2024. The design will not change much from the demonstrator version of the aircraft, but there have been adjustments to the outer mold lines.


Bell has started building a weapon systems integration lab next to its flight research center in Arlington, Texas, and a new drive system test lab in Grand Prairie, Texas. Parts for the first six aircraft are also coming together, with the final assembly taking place in Amarillo, Texas. Bell plans to announce the establishment of production facilities later this year.

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