The American company Bell Helicopter at the 2018 Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia, showed a full-size mock-up of the V-247 Vigilant perspective unmanned unmanned aerial vehicle with one of the proposed variants of combat equipment. According to The War Zone, the new device will be offered to the US Marine Corps for the tender MUX, which presupposes the development of shock unmanned shipborne aircraft.
Command of the US Marine Corps announced a tender for MUX on the development of deck drones in March this year. According to the plans of the military, the vehicles are planned to be used on land by 2025, and on ships by 2028. New drones in the arsenal of the US Marine Corps will solve several problems: early warning, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, retransmission of signals and air support. The military believes that the new vehicles will complement the capabilities of the deck heavy helicopters CH-53K King Stallion, the MV-22 Osprey converters, and the F-35B Lightning II fighters.
According to the requirement of the American Marines, the combat radius of the new deck-based drones should be from 350 to 700 nautical miles (648 to 1296 kilometers) with payload. The cruising speed of drones should be from 200 to 300 knots (370-555 kilometers per hour). Complete operational readiness (the completion of the delivery of all ordered by military vehicles and their acceptance into combat duty), new drones should reach by 2034.
Model V-247 Vigilant, presented by Bell at the 2018 Modern Day Marine Expo, is equipped with the models of eight AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles and 12 miniature aerial bombs with a semi-active laser aiming head. The model of the drone is also equipped with a fuel rod. Bell Helicopter did not report on the planned possibility of refueling V-247 in the air. Thanks to this capability, the devices will be able to fly long distances or long time to barrage over a given area.
In the event that the US Marine Corps, following a tender, chooses the unmanned Bell Helicopter, the company will launch a serial production of converters in 2023. In September 2016, Bell Helicopter revealed some characteristics of a prospective UAV. In particular, the mass of the empty V-247 will be 7.3 tons. The drone can carry fuel, useful and combat load with a total mass of up to 5.9 tons. The on-board equipment of the device will be performed in an open architecture, so that individual components can be developed and replaced by third-party manufacturers.
The wingspan of the drone is 19.8 meters, and the diameter of the propellers is 9.1 meters. For special equipment, including reconnaissance, the convertor will receive three compartments – underneath the fuselage and under the wing consoles. The V-247 will be able to carry AIM-9X air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire and JAGM air-to-surface missiles or Mk.50 torpedoes. The onboard equipment of the device will include a radar station of a circular view.
The V-247 will install a turboshaft engine with a capacity of five to six thousand horsepower. The transmission will be installed in the center wing. With its help, the rotation will be transmitted from the engine to the air screws on the wing tips. In Vigilant it is planned to use the technologies of the promising V-280 Valor convertor presented in the spring of 2013. This device will be able to fly at speeds of up to 519 kilometers per hour, and its combat radius will be 1,5 thousand kilometers. At Valor engines will be motionless: at transition from a helicopter mode of flight in plane to incline there will be only screws.
In addition to Bell Helicopter, US companies Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are planning to participate in the MUX tender. Lockheed Martin together with Piasecki Aircraft intends to develop a modular unmanned platform ARES. It is an envelope with a wingspan of 12.5 meters and two rotary fans with a diameter of 2.4 meters each. The maximum takeoff weight of the unmanned platform is 3.2 tons. The device will be able to fly at speeds of up to 170 knots at an altitude of up to 6.1 thousand meters. The combat radius of the UAV will be up to 324 kilometers.
In turn, Northrop Grumman intends to offer the US Marines an unmanned steelster, a vertical takeoff aircraft with a tail landing. The device, with a length of just over 12 meters, will be able to carry loads of up to 226 kilograms up to 1.1 thousand kilometers. Northrop Grumman is considering the possibility of installing on the apparatus and suspension points for armament.