Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-07-06

Constant Vigilance with The Bell V-247

Becoming available for production as early as 2023, the Bell V-247 is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) combining the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. A Textron Inc. company, Bell Helicopter revealed the design of the V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor UAS in September 2016 as an aircraft satisfying the comprehensive spectrum of capabilities outlined in the 2016 U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Plan.  
 
Within the requirements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Multimission Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX), the Marines have been seeking their own ship-based, armed ISR drone in order not to depend on land-based Air Force MQ-9 Reapers in support of their operations. The V-247 Vigilant is an armed escort in multi-domain operations, providing counter integrated air defence, electronic warfare, early warning and precision fires. 
 
The Bell V-247 Vigilant enables mission commanders to re-task payloads and sensors in real time, with its unmatched internal and external payload capacity able to trade out different mission packages swiftly. The aircraft has an autonomous flight capability to implement new missions, which adds flexibility to the escorted crew chief and allows for the re-tasking of ISR sensors. 
 
While accompanying any asset into contested territory to provide protection, early warning or interdiction, the Bell V-247 Vigilant’s modular radar and sensor payloads keep the Marine Expeditionary Unit safer by using advanced warning systems and sensors. Combat-proven tiltrotor technology then enables runway independence and lethal reach with increased speed and range that a conventional rotorcraft cannot match. 
The V-247 lets you lift off from any domain thanks to Vertical Takeoff Landing (VTOL) and Short Takeoff Landing (STOVL), providing seamless performance in locations without secure runway availability, such as at shrinking land bases in contested areas. Sea- and land-based assets can be protected by the V-247 Vigilant’s capability to perform day or night airborne early warning, while extended loiter time and over-the-horizon range satisfies Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare needs.
 
Enhanced Features and Design 
As a Group 5 UAS, the Bell V-247 Vigilant is designed to combine unparalleled capability with unprecedented flexibility in executing a wide array of mission sets, accomplished with the benefits of extended endurance through plug-and-play mission packages. Missions include electronic warfare, airborne early warning (AEW), ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), serving as an escort for V-22 / V-280 tiltrotor aircraft, C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computers), precision strike, aerial refuelling, anti-submarine warfare, personnel recovery and tactical resupply. 
 
Based on the high-wing aircraft design, the Bell V-247 
features a fuselage integrating a long-wing structure, a V-shaped tail and a retractable tail-dragger landing gear, while significant electrical power enables integration of demanding high-performance systems. Self-protection capabilities, modular design and tiltrotor performance then increase survivability. 
 
The Bell V-247’s Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHM) is used to monitor and provide data if any threats are detected, while advanced flight controls deploy goal-oriented systems to remove potential human errors-increasing safety and reliability. The aircraft will have a wingspan of 65ft, just 1 ft (30 cm) shorter than the MQ-9 Reaper's and rotor diameter of 30ft.
 
The Bell V-247 benefits from an empty weight and maximum gross weight of 16,000lb and 30,000lb, respectively. The V-247’s maximum take-off weight is expected to be about 30,000 lbs - roughly three times the maximum take-off weight of the MQ-9 – and the tilt-rotor UAV can carry up 13,000lb of fuel, armament and sensors.  
 
The Bell V-247 Vigilant can be operated from the deck of a DDG guided missile destroyer. The wing and rotors swivel along the 37 ft long fuselage to have the same footprint as the UH-1Y helicopter to enable size compatibility with U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. 
 
A Blade Fold Wing Stow makes V-247 Vigilant DDG hangar compatible, while two folded up V-247s can fit inside one C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. The aircraft’s redundant flight control system will ensure safe and reliable flight operations. Moreover, the V-247 can be launched from a helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ship, a guided-missile destroyer and even from a C-5 transport aircraft. 
 
The Bell V-247 Vigilant also has the ability to coordinate fire missions from manned jets, ships and troops on the ground. Thanks to a camera with a “distributed aperture”, the V-247’s remote pilot can see 360 degrees around the UAS.
 
Next-gen Armament and Sensors
The modular payload system is designed to accommodate a variety of packages, while the V-247 Vigilant can be armed with air-to-ground missiles and other precision munitions. An Elector Optical System and Targeting System provide superior target identification and designation.
 
Equipped with sonobuoys and torpedoes, Bell V-247 Vigilant can protect fleets with anti-submarine capabilities. Its modular payload can carry an assortment of arms, all designed to neutralise and expose threats on the surface and beneath it because the open architecture of the system will allow for the integration of weapon systems according to the mission type.
 
The Vigilant is equipped with three internal payload bays, a centreline payload and the capability to house up to two underwing pylons per side for various payloads. The payload bays are designed to accommodate a range of weapon systems, including a MK-50 torpedo, AGM-114 Hellfire and Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGM).
 
The aircraft can also carry additional fuel, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) modules, sonobuoys and 360° surface radar systems. Moreover, the V-247 Vigilant can be easily modified to meet multiple airborne mission requirements.
 
Powerful Engine and Performance 
While the V-22 and V-280 use two engines located within the tiltrotor pylons, the V-247 will have a single engine housed in the fuselage generating 5,000-6,000 shp (shaft horsepower), about as much as the V-22's engines. The V-247’s single engine drives the two three-bladed tiltrotors.
 
V-247 aims to achieve a long-range cruise speed of 250 knots, endurance speed of 180kt and a maximum speed of more than 300kt at maximum continuous power, flying at a maximum altitude of 25,000ft and offering a maximum time on station of more than 11 hours when carrying 600lb of mission payload at a 450 nautical mile mission radius. The aircraft can support an internal mission payload of 2,000 lb and can sling-load 9,000 lb. 
 
Thanks to the two-aircraft system, the V-247’s on-station support at mission ranges is sustainable for 24 hours. Fewer aircraft and flying hours are then required to provide 24/7 coverage, so reducing total mission costs. 
 
Bell is committed to ensuring that this tiltrotor aircraft will be able to deliver extended range operating from both land and from vessels. The air-to-air refuelling capability will further provide the aircraft with higher loiter times for extended periods.
 
Unparalleled Simplicity and Reliability
Bell Helicopter has indeed utilised its decades of applied tiltrotor experience to develop this next generation UAS. According to Bell, the V-247 Vigilant will provide military customers with the capabilities required to reduce the complexity of deployment, increase speed, reduce mission times and increase response time, which are all elements critical to completing missions, saving lives and protecting freedom. 
 
With the Bell V-247 Vigilant design and capabilities bringing to bear experience from the V-22 tiltrotor and UH-1Y/AH-1Z programmes, they are responsible for capturing V-280 Valor’s unmatched design and performance standards. These features provide unparalleled competency to support ship-board compatibility and entail that the Bell V-247 Vigilant is both unmanned and unmatched in offering flexible, modular and lethal autonomous flight capabilities.
 
Reference Text/Photo:
 

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