Bell Textron wins historic contract for Army assault helicopter

Bell V-280 Valor (Bell Textron)

Fort Worth-based Bell Textron has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Army to manufacture a new assault helicopter to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter, which has been in use since the 1970s.

The contract could be worth about $70 billion over decades, depending on how many the Army and U.S. allies order, according to Reuters. The first group of helicopters will be worth $7.1 billion.

Bell’s V-280 Valor helicopter was selected over competition from defense industry giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing through the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. Initiated in 2019, the FLRAA program was intended to select the replacement for part of the Army’s assault and utility helicopter fleet and eventually all Black Hawk helicopters, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Bell’s V-280 Valor, a tilt-rotor aircraft, was chosen over Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Boeing’s Defiant because of its speed and durability.

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“Bell has a long history supporting Army aviation and we are ready to equip soldiers with the speed and range they need to compete and win using the most mature, reliable, and affordable high-performance long-range assault weapon system in the world,” Mitch Snyder, CEO of Bell, said in a statement.

The V-280 Valor was developed and tested as part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program that began in 2013, according to Bell Textron officials. The helicopter advanced through design, manufacturing, and more than three years of rigorous flight testing to validate its technical and operational capabilities for long-range assault missions.

“We are honored that the U.S. Army has selected the Bell V-280 Valor as its next-generation assault aircraft,” said Scott C. Donnelly, Textron’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable and transformational weapon system to meet the Army’s mission requirements. We are excited to play an important role in the future of Army aviation.”

Fort Worth Congresswoman Kay Granger, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, commended Bell Textron for its “superiority in the important role they play in the defense of our nation.”

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“I have witnessed the V-280 in action, and it is truly spectacular,” Granger said. “The Bell Textron engineers and employees, who have worked for nearly a decade on rigorous flight testing and design are to be commended for this next-generation aircraft.”

The Army said it followed a “deliberate and disciplined” process in evaluating the competitors.

“The thoughtful and disciplined execution of the FLRAA program strategy will deliver the transformational capabilities we need to support the Joint force, strengthen deterrence and win in multi-domain operations,” said Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker called the contract “a historic win.”

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“The historic decision will preserve and expand our world-class workforce here in Texas,” she said in a tweet. “This is a historic win for Bell and Team Valor and a big win for the state of Texas.”