Bell unveiled three aircraft concepts that use HSVTOL (High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing) technology, that “blends the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of a fighter aircraft.”
Models have a tiltrotor system whose blades are folded in cruise flight to reduce drag. Horizontal propulsion would be provided by a turbofan engine, despite Bell not confirming the information in the statement and the only image released.
According to the US manufacturer, this type of aircraft would be able to reach 400 kts of speed, about 740 km/h, or 100 kts faster than the V-280, a new tiltrotor that is competing for an Army contract.
The three aircraft have different sizes, the largest of which has the US Air Force insignia and the smallest an unmanned configuration – gross weight ranges from 4,000 lbs to 100,000 lbs, according to Bell.
“Bell’s HSVTOL technology is a step change improvement in rotorcraft capabilities,” said Jason Hurst, vice president, Innovation. “Our technology investments have reduced risk and prepared us for the rapid development of HSVTOL in a digital engineering environment, leveraging experience from a robust past of technology exploration and close partnerships with the Department of Defense and Research Laboratories.”
How Bell thought of combining the propulsion of the rotors and the cruising aircraft was not explained.
Patent images filed by the company suggest that the most likely operation involves using a turbofan that would work in turboshaft mode or power an electric motor that would drive the propellers.
The three concepts also appear to have a stealth design, with discreet air intakes and a double tail, as well as low-drag nacelles.
Bell hasn’t set any targets for testing the concept so far, but it’s highly likely that the Pentagon will launch some sort of such requirement in the future.