Bell’s High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing X-plane takes next step

Bell has been selected as one of two companies for Phase 1B of DARPA’s Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) X-Plane program to create a prototype High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HSVTOL) aircraft for the US military.

NASA’s program to develop a new class of aircraft combining the hovering ability of a helicopter with the high-speed of a jet took a step up on May 28 when Bell Textron announced that it was given the go ahead to develop its concept for the SPRINT X-plane. This comes in the wake of Aurora Flight Sciences unveiling its concept for a blended wing aircraft for the project.

Bell has made considerable progress with its tilt rotor design. Earlier this year, it carried out ground track tests to demonstrate flight control systems and how the engine nacelles can convert from rotor to forward jet propulsion, then folding back the rotors into the nacelle to reduce drag.

Render of Bell X-plane in resupply operation
Render of Bell X-plane in resupply operation


When fully developed, the Bell prototype will be pilot optional with the capability to cruise at up to 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h) for a range of 200 nm (230 miles, 370 km) at altitudes up to 30,000 ft (9,100 m). It will be able to carry payloads of up to 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) in a spacious compartment and is designed for a wide variety of missions.

Today, HSVTOL aircraft are confined to fighter planes like the classic Harrier or the F-35B Lightning II. DAPRA’s vision is to expand this to more versatile, survivable airframes to provide runway independence for missions ranging from special forces insertion to disaster relief in inaccessible areas.

“Bell is honored to be selected for the next phase of this revolutionary program and ready to execute preliminary design,” said Jason Hurst, executive vice president, Engineering, Bell. “We completed our initial risk reduction efforts with our sled test demonstration at Holloman Air Force Base, and we look forward to building on this success with our continued work with DARPA.”

Source: Bell

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