Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bell’s V-280 Tiltrotor Is Part F-35

Bell’s V-280 Tiltrotor Is Part F-35 « Breaking Defense - Defense industr: Bell Helicopter’s exhibit at this week’s Association of the United States Army convention includes a full-scale mockup of the V-280 Valor, the new tiltrotor the company is building. From the outside, it sure looks like a close cousin of the V-22 Osprey.

Under the skin, the V-280 seems a lot more like a prop-driven F-35. The first sign is six relatively small, round holes in the V-280’s composite skin. Those holes – two in the V-280’s nose, two near its V-shaped tail and one each on the top and bottom of the fuselage – are where Bell plans to install small video cameras, creating a Distributed Aperture System similar to one used by the F-35. As in the F-35, the imagery collected by those cameras will be quilted together by a computer program to create a live 360-degree view displayed on the visor of the pilot’s helmet, allowing him to see what’s under, above, in front of or behind the aircraft.

As Bell’s V-280 build manager, Scott Allen, told me when I visited Amarillo last month to see the actual V-280 work in progress, this Lockheed-supplied Pilotage Distributed Aperture System (abbreviated PDAS and pronounced “PEE-dass”), “turns the whole aircraft into Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, basically” — an analogy Lockheed reps also often use. But unlike the F-35, which carries just its pilot, the V-280’s PDAS imagery is to be sent to six special helmets, four for the Valor’s two pilots and two crew chiefs and two for commanders or others riding in the back cabin, which would hold 12 troops. The imagery could also be transmitted to screens in or far from the aircraft, just as the F-35 shares data with legacy aircraft like the F-16 and F-18, a stealth fighter like the F-22, Navy ships and other platforms. Why equip a relatively slow aircraft with high-tech sensors like this?