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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

23 September 2016

Introducing the Bell V-247 VIGILANT Tiltrotor

Speaking before an audience of aviation and military experts assembled at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on 2 September 2016, Bell Helicopter, a Textron company, today unveiled the Bell V-247 VIGILANT tiltrotor.
 
Bell Introduces the V-247 VIGILANT Tiltrotor (All Photos: Bell)

The Bell V-247 tiltrotor is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. The UAS is designed to provide long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability and lethal reach, as well as runway independence to operate successfully in maritime environments and locations without secure runway availability.

The Bell V-247 VIGILANT satisfies the comprehensive spectrum of capabilities outlined in the 2016 USMC Aviation Plan, and could be available for production as early as 2023. It is a solution designed to address the evolving demands of the military and transportation sectors for unmanned aircraft for a shipborne UAS platform, including:

  • The ability to operate successfully without a runway, such as in maritime environments,
  • Seamless performance in locations without secure runway availability, such as at shrinking land bases in contested areas,
  • Significant reduction of the logistical footprint while retaining the superior operational performance by combining the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, and 
  • The capacity to control the battle space effectively with 24-hour intelligence provided by long-endurance persistent expeditionary and surveillance capability.


Bell V-247 VIGILANT Tiltrotor 

A Group 5 UAS, the Bell V-247 VIGILANT is designed to be flexible to execute a wide array of mission sets, including electronic warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), escort, C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computers), persistent fire missions, and tactical distribution. The UAS is expected to accomplish all of this with the benefits of extended endurance through plug-and-play mission packages.

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,” Mitch Snyder, President and CEO at Bell Helicopter, explained. “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.”

The Bell V-247 VIGILANT Tiltrotor has the ability to operate successfully without a runway, such as in maritime environments.

The Bell V-247 Vigilant’s design boasts a number of transformational features, including:

  • A sea-based platform, which can be sized for compatibility with DDG guided missile destroyers shipboard applications,
  • Single engine tiltrotor UAS, 
  • 24-hour persistent ISR with a two aircraft system,
  • Speed: 250 knots cruise speed; 180 knots endurance speed; >300 knots at maximum continuous power,
  • Combat range: 450 nautical miles mission radius,
  • Time on station: 11 hours,
  • Size: 16,000 pounds empty weight / 29,500 pounds max gross weight; 65-feet wing span; 30-feet rotor diameter,
  • As it sits on the deck, the V-247 VIGILANT can hold a combination of fuel, armament, and sensors, up to 13,000 pounds,
  • Blade Fold Wing Stow makes V-247 VIGILANT DDG hangar compatible,
  • Expeditionary capability with small logistical footprint,
  • Open architecture and interfaces,
  • Air-to-air refueling,
  • Modular payload system to provide maximum flexibility,
  • Power distribution system to provide maximum mission capability,
  • Redundant flight control system, and
  • Electro Optical System and Targeting System


The Bell V-247 VIGILANT is designed to provide extended range flying from land or ship, matchless expeditionary capabilities and to remain on-station with heightened loiter times for extended periods. With its signature blade fold wing stow design, it will fit inside a DDG hangar space, and two can be loaded on a C-17 aircraft. The open architecture of the modular payload system enhances flexibility for aircraft customisation by mission type. The bays on the Bell V-247 are designed to carry high definition sensors, fuel, sonar buoys, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) modules, 360° surface radar modules, an MK-50 torpedo or HELLFIRE or JAGM missiles optimally.

The Bell V-247 VIGILANT is designed to provide extended range flying from land or ship, matchless expeditionary capabilities and to remain on-station with heightened loiter times for extended periods.

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,” Vince Tobin, vice president, advanced tiltrotor systems at Bell Helicopter, concluded. “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.”

Bell Helicopter's V-247 behind the Bell V-280 VALOR, a third-generation tilt-rotor concept being developed by Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin for the United States Army's Future Vertical Lift programme.