Thursday, May 23, 2019

V-280 Low Speed Agility Demonstration

I just watched a YouTube video of the Bell V-280 tiltrotor conducting some kind of low speed agility demonstration.  The V-280 is being developed as a possibility for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program and is sized to carry 14 infantry troops.  This is of interest because the Marines may latch on to this, as well.  Like the V-22 Osprey, the V-280 is capable of both level and vertical flight.

Take a look at the video of the agility test.

The aircraft can rock back and forth and roll side to side.  That’s nice, I guess.  However, what I want to see is combat related flight and maneuvers.  Like the old Vietnam era Hueys that came plummeting out of the sky, flaring just before crashing into the ground, disgorged their troops in seconds, and popped off the ground to vanish again, all in about 30 seconds or less, I want to see a V-22 or V-280 perform a similar combat-useful maneuver.  Then, and only then, will I be impressed.  Until then, the V-22 or V-280 is just a technological curiosity, not a combat asset.

That’s the problem with the V-22.  It’s a technological wonder – so say its supporters – that has little combat capability.  I’ve seen videos of V-22s conducting ‘combat’ landings and they are a total farce.  They hover, high and exposed, very slowly settle down, and seem to take forever to unload troops.  For those of us who witnessed Vietnam helicopter assaults, this is a recipe for disaster.

Here's a video of a Vietnam helo assault.

Note how the first helo never even completely touches down.  Note how the helo is popping back into the air before the last troop hits the ground.  Note how the troops unload in seconds.  Note the flare and touch maneuver.  By comparison, watching a V-22 landing exercise is like watching in slow motion with a lot of still shots thrown in!

Hey, I get it … Bell is trying to sell aircraft, not develop a combat aircraft.  They’re hoping the technology, itself, will sufficiently impress the military to result in sales – and they may be right given that we’ve substituted technology for strategy.  I’m sorry but slowly rocking back and forth might be a technological achievement – I have no idea – but it’s not, by itself, a combat useful capability. Hovering in one spot and rocking is not going to accomplish anything in combat.  It won’t dodge a rocket, missile, or gunfire.  It won’t put troops on the ground more efficiently.  It won’t do anything useful.  We've become enamored with the technology and forgotten the combat.  

Bell, do you want to sell me on the V-280?  Then show me combat maneuvers.  Translate that little rocking demonstration into an actual, useful combat maneuver.  Show me a vertical assault maneuver that will work in combat.

We buy too much stuff on the lure and glitz of technology without considering the combat usefulness (Ford CVN, I’m looking at you).  We perform too many tests that are completely divorced from any combat reality.

Show me combat!


  1. There are limitations to the tilt-rotor design, even under ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the V-22 isn't an ideal design and it has a spectacularly high failure (crash) rate when operating in low speed, low altitude flight under adverse (realistic) weather conditions. This is a major problem when using V-22 as a troop transport - a questionable role for tilt-rotors in general - but also in any role since we would like to land the aircraft even if we used it for strike/ISR missions that don't require it to land during the mission.

    The kind of maneuvers shown in that video demonstrate that the V280 is being designed with enough low speed, low altitude maneuverability to *recover from* the kinds of perturbations that cause the V-22 to crash during landings. I have to agree that that still doesn't make it better troop transport than a conventional helicopter, but it's not *all* marketing gimmick.

    1. " maneuvers shown in that video demonstrate that the V280 is being designed with enough low speed, low altitude maneuverability to *recover from*"

      I don't see that at all. Those rocking motions prove nothing about recovering from problems. Admittedly, I'm not a helo pilot so, perhaps, a helo pilot might see those as proof of stability/recoverability and, if so, great. My larger point is, let's stop techno-wow and start combat-wow. Take that V-280 and drop it like a rock into a landing zone, disembark the 14 troops in 5 seconds or so, and pop back up and out of sight before the last troop hits the ground - AND DO IT IN A TIGHT PACKAGE OF SEVERAL AIRCRAFT (unlike the V-22 that requires a football field for a single aircraft!).

      I also understand that a new aircraft starts with baby steps. You sway a bit before you combat land. I get it. But then stop advertising it as some great accomplishment that proves low speed agility (yes, that's exactly what the various spokesmen said). I didn't see any proof of low speed agility. I saw an aircraft rock back and forth essentially in place. If that's what passes for low speed agility then our standards are pathetically low.

    2. In my combat mind, low speed agility is the ability to approach the LZ as fast as possible (why would anyone want to be low speed in combat?) and flare to an instantaneous stop that simultaneously places the aircraft on the ground. Agility is the ability to suddenly execute a 90 deg turn and offset 30 yards to the side in a matter of seconds because the landing spot you picked is suddenly seen to have an obstacle on it. Agility is the ability to pop off the ground, already moving forwards/sideways and accelerate hard and fast away from the LZ. Agility is the ability to speed up to a roof edge and quickly come to a hover half on and half off to load/unload troops. And so on. Show me agility that is combat useful.

      'Combat useful' is my new mantra - well, it's always been my mantra but I'm going to start harping on it!.

    3. Absolutely... Its amazing that the "combat filter" seems to have no relevance (?!?!?) anymore.

    4. "My larger point is, let's stop techno-wow and start combat-wow. Take that V-280 and drop it like a rock into a landing zone, disembark the 14 troops in 5 seconds or so, and pop back up and out of sight before the last troop hits the ground - AND DO IT IN A TIGHT PACKAGE OF SEVERAL AIRCRAFT"

      It can't do that last part as well as the Huey, or any other conventional copter design that has a narrower rotor span for the same payload, which (along with flying better than a brick) enables them to safely pack more tightly. V-22 can't even safely vertically land on a carrier/LHA/LHD in a choppy breeze and medium seas, never mind in a small VTOL-only hot LZ. Flying it safely is flying it as a STOL airplane, or at best a VTOSL. Even if V-280 has reliable enough VTOL capabilities to use it from these ships, it still shouldn't be dropping troops on the front lines in an assault, it's not as good as many other VTOL aircraft at that. I think best-in-class for that task is a flying APC/IFV like a Mi-24 Hind, it's one of the only seemingly very useful aerial platforms in the world that another power made and the US hasn't. A replica wouldn't be ideal, but a small arms-proof++, moderately armed VTOL transport that can do the kind of assault maneuvers that CNOps is describing throughout the comments is needed if the marines are gonna go all-in on vertical assault. It's one way to avoid procuring minesweepers I guess! (is joke)

    5. Well, Darth, the Huey definitely couldn't do it (it was definitely under-powered for high temps or altitudes (and almost helpless when both were applicable), and the Blackhawk can't really perform to those standards, either. So, the question is, can the V-280 meet the old standards? I ave my doubts. The SB-1 Defiant seems a much safer bet at this time without the risk of a single rotor failing and flipping the craft over due to enemy fire.

    6. "the Huey definitely couldn't do it (it was definitely under-powered for high temps or altitudes"

      I'm not sure exactly what you're saying, here. The Huey actually did it for many years. If you're just saying that the Huey struggled in high/hot, that's valid for every aircraft! The manufacturer claims improved high/hot performance for the SB-1 but manufacturer claims are always overstated. The exact percentage increase in high/hot performance is irrelevant. The only question is can it deliver the requisite troop load in the required area? For example, a 50% improvement in high/hot (the manf's vague, unspecified claim) that still results in, say, a 50% decrease in troop load is operationally useless even if it's a 50% improvement. So, we'll have to wait and see what the aircraft can really do and that's where realistic testing comes in, as opposed to some silly rocking back and forth test.

      The larger picture/issue, of course, is can it perform the requisite assault combat maneuvers? Can it land fast and hard, unload in seconds, and pop back up and egress fast? Can it land in tight clusters to keep an assault force from being spread out too far? And so on? Again, realistic combat testing is needed.

    7. Sorry, I meant to type "high and hot". There are areas of Afghanistan where UH-60 Blackhawks can't operate today, and they've got quite a lot more power than a Huey. The Afganistan Air Force wants CH-47s in addition to UH-60s because they're going to be losing their Mi-17s as they wear out, and losing significant capability. If there are areas in Afghanistan where Blackhawks can't effectively operate, then there would be much larger areas where Hueys couldn't operate.

      I don't like tilt-rotors because they're hybrids. They can't operate as effectively as helicopters in a tactical role, nor are they as good as a fixed wing aircraft in that mode. I totally agree that realistic, tough testing is needed. I suspect that the SB-1 Defiant would be able to out-perform the V-280 where it really counts -- at the LZ.

  2. It think it was on SNAFU blog, SOL posted that US Army was closing down AIR Assault school so maybe DoD figures we are always going to land in the middle of giant parking lot ( so there will be no dust so no allergies!) and have plenty of time to disembark, maybe even the bad guys will help out a little so nobody gets hurt, maybe put a little step stool so nobody twists an ankle.

    Seriously, all the footage Ive seen of Marines V-22s, yeah, "assaults" are very painfully slow and there's almost always a ton of dust and debris flying around. I keep saying it and I KNOW ALREADY that these 2 prototypes (V-280 and SB-1) are the same size and general foot print of a Black-hawk BUT I still think VISUALLY, they look huge, OK, so it's just me BUT I think they look like even BIGGER TARGETS for RPGs than the UH-60. Not much we can do about it, just my 2 cents....I haven't heard of any ballistic tests planned or how much armor they will have for their engines and transmission,etc?

    1. It's not just an issue with the V-22. People forget that helo assaults are inherently high casualty affairs. We lost 47% of the UH-1's in Vietnam (see, Helo Assault)

      Even in more recent times, helo ops have proven to be high casualty (see, MV-22 Assault)

      Looking at the historical evidence, one would have to question how viable vertical lift assaults are, whether V-22, V-280, or helo. It may be that vertical assault should be reserved for small special ops rather than large infantry assaults.

    2. I definitely agree that helo assaults are bloody affairs. Perhaps the army is leaning more towards forward supply, forward reinforcement, and casualty evacuation. Helicopters are not going to last long in a future war unless the LZ and the flight path to it are well secured, and the AF has established total air dominance overhead.

      It could also be a case of last-war-itis. Fast and high flying helo hybrids would have been great in OIF and OEF where we launched and landed in FOBs and bases, and the primary threat was rooftop hajjis shooting AKs and RPGs. A V-280 or Valient would have flown too fast and too high to get hurt in those environs.

      But those two big engines way out on the wing-tips are begging to eat Stingers. At altitude and speed, with no way to auto-rotate, everyone will die when it takes a hit from a MANPAD or SPAAG. This sucker flies in a flight profile that is perfect for low tier, portable air-defenses to operate in.

    3. Agreed. Compered to an SB-1 Defiant, these are flak traps.

  3. "Hovering in one spot and rocking is not going to accomplish anything in combat. It won’t dodge a rocket, missile, or gunfire. It won’t put troops on the ground more efficiently. It won’t do anything useful."

    A more detailed explanation of the demonstration:

    Keep in mind that the V-22 weighs about the same as a CH-53E. The difference in momentum of a 33K lbs aircraft and 5K lbs(UH-1) or 10K lbs (UH-60) aircraft "on the X" is substantial, as is the inertia of the rotor systems needed to support those weights. The V-22 has about the same cabin volume and is about double the weight of a CH-46, so the V-280 is probably double the weight of the UH-60 (so, ~20K lbs empty). This is in line with the estimates that the V-280 max takeoff weight is around 30K lbs with a 10K lbs load. A ~20K V-280 is still about 4x the weight of a 5K lbs UH-1. Apples and Oranges.

    The V-22 and V-280, however, also more than double the rate of climb of the UH-1 or UH-60 following transition, which can happen awfully quickly. Do you want to spend more time "on the X" or getting in and out of LZ?

    In reality, there's probably a place for compound troop-transport helicopters in the S-97 to SB>1 range, troop transport-tiltrotors in the V-280 to V-22 range, heavy-lift "conventional" helicopters, and STOL fixedwing planes. A C-27 of C-130 with a ShinMaywa US-1/2 style BLC system could be very interesting).

    Doctrinally, "assaulting" into a hot LZ is really only the province of special forces and Medevac. A compound hotrod like the S-97 able to carry 6-9 guys and a couple of stretchers would be very useful in these two roles. A V-280 or V-22 would be very useful for fairing time-critical supplies and personnel directly from staging areas outside the range of short-range ballistic missiles. Basically, the more time and/or distance in going from A to B, the more a tilt-rotor or fixed wing aircraft makes sense.

    1. "The V-22 and V-280, however, also more than double the rate of climb of the UH-1 or UH-60 following transition, which can happen awfully quickly."

      I don't know that's true at all. What do you have to support that statement? The video I see of the V-22 shows a very slow climb, hover, and transition as opposed to a helo which 'pops' off the ground and is headed out in seconds. Your statement is probably true AFTER TRANSITION. However, in combat, the entire lift-off, hover, transition process is likely under fire and the final climb AFTER TRANSISTION is almost irrelevant (if you made it that far, there probably is not significant enemy fire!).

      I'm also unclear how/why climbing would be a good thing in combat. Climbing just exposes the aircraft. A treetop egress from the LZ seemed to be pretty standard in Vietnam and the vulnerabilities of high/hovering helos was relearned in more modern times even (see, MV-22 Assault).

      The climb rate of a V-22, AFTER TRANSITION, seems like one of those techno-wow features that is combat-detrimental or useless.

      "Doctrinally, "assaulting" into a hot LZ is really only the province of special forces and Medevac."

      I'm not a ground combat expert but, as far as I know, the Army has not abandoned air assaults as evidenced by the Army's Air Assault School and 101st Airborne Division.

    2. Only one location for Air Assault training is closing, Big Army says there are three other locations to get the training. Closing is funding-related, located at Fort Bragg.

    3. "The climb rate of a V-22, AFTER TRANSITION, seems like one of those techno-wow features that is combat-detrimental or useless."

      An important KPP of virtually every combat aircraft ever is a "techno-wow feature"? Rate of claim is just a way to represent an aircraft's maximum speed and L/D performance in an intuitive way.

      Via wikipedia, UH-1D rate of climb is 1,755 ft/min and V-22 rate of climb is 2,320-4,000 ft/min (rotor to wing-borne flight). The V-280 has supposedly demonstrated a 4,500 ft/min rate of climb in testing. The maximum speed differentials are similar.

      Conversely, helicopters and tiltrotors can both enter vortex ring state (VRS) when they descend too quickly at too slow forward airspeed. It's also true that tiltrotors are more susceptible to VRS than helicopter and that pilots can find it more difficult to control the rolling moment VRS usually produces in transverse rotors. Additionally, the recovery procedure is different than that in a helicopter (rotate the nacelles/proprotors instead of adjusting collective). Tiltrotors, however, also have the option of descending "on wing" in a spiral manner like any other turboprop to scub altitude and airspeed and then transitioning to rotor-borne flight at low level, which also helps to conceal the location of the LZ/PZ.

      "A treetop egress from the LZ seemed to be pretty standard in Vietnam"

      Yes, because helicopters are pigs, aerodynamically. They can't climb fast enough to get out of range of effective ground fire out of a hot LZ so they have to build up speed on the deck and trust in their route reconnaissance. Even on the deck, in the process of pitching their thrust vector forward to accelerate forwards, they add a huge amount of profile drag because the fuselage pitches with the thrust vector. Moreover, conventional helicopters actually have to ease OFF collective, and thus power, to maintain a constant altitude while accelerating forwards. Helicopters are just slow. A nice big flapping rotor to generate those nice big control moments does give you that sweet low speed handling though.

      The truth is there isn't one right answer. A conventional helicopter, a compound helicopter, and a tiltrotor can probably all get the job done. I fully expect that FVL will be a repeat of the LCS competition where the buy is split between the V-280 and SB>1. Then the Army will have a fast and efficient V-280 for the 90% of the time these things a hauling beans and bullets over relatively safe MSRs and the SB>1 for the 1% of the time some officer thinks he's Hal Moore reincarnate and/or the 9% of the time you actually need to fly NOE, fast rope guys onto the objective, or pickup a casualty on a postage-stamp size piece of Earth.

      "However, in combat, the entire lift-off, hover, transition process is likely under fire and the final climb AFTER TRANSISTION is almost irrelevant (if you made it that far, there probably is not significant enemy fire!)."

      "I'm not a ground combat expert but, as far as I know, the Army has not abandoned air assaults"

      The "assault" in "Air Assault" doesn't mean what you think it means. Yes, landing onto a hot LZ is still in books, but that's an option of last resort.

      Checkout this to get a more realistic perspective on the capabilities of air assault:

    4. "An important KPP of virtually every combat aircraft ever is a "techno-wow feature"? "

      It's an important feature for a FIXED WING aircraft because it's combat-useful. It's pretty much combat-meaningless for vertical lift aircraft.

      Have you watched a video of a V-22 taking off vertically? The aircraft rises hundreds of feet vertically before it even begins to transition to forward flight. The reverse is true on landing. It's actually painful to watch how slow these happen. I can't imagine a bigger, slower, better target than a V-22 taking off vertically. Climb rate is utterly meaningless. You need to start thinking in terms of combat.

      "The truth is there isn't one right answer."

      The truth is there isn't ANY right idea for vertical assault but there certainly are some demonstrably wrong ideas and tiltrotors for vertical assault are a wrong idea.

      "The "assault" in "Air Assault" doesn't mean what you think it means."

      I know exactly what it means. I'm focusing on the most demanding case because that's where we need the best, most appropriate equipment. For many of the other cases, it doesn't matter much how we go about it. The other cases are not as demanding.

      As long as a true vertical assault is on the books, being trained for, and part of the combat planning handbook then we need to ensure that we have the right equipment and tiltrotors are not it.

      The biggest problem with simple transport movements of troops, as opposed to insertion assaults, is that even simple transport operations have a tendency to turn hot. Even the Dec 2013 Sudan civilian evacuation by three MV-22s turned hot and all three aircraft were badly shot up. The point is that EVERY vertical landing in a combat zone is a potential hot LZ and if you haven't got the right aircraft, you're going to pay the price.

      "helicopters are pigs, aerodynamically. They can't climb fast enough to get out of range of effective ground fire out of a hot LZ"

      If you've every stood under a very low helo moving at speed, you'd realize that it is the best way to get out of a hot zone. It minimizes the number of enemy assets that have a clear fire path. The helo appears and vanishes over any given spot in seconds. The window of vulnerability is as short as possible.

      In contrast, a vertical climb hundreds of feet up and then moving forward (with or without transition) is exposing the aircraft to EVERY enemy weapon. It's literally a target practice shooting range at that point.

      I would suggest you study past aerial assault tactics and the underlying reasons for those tactics and then apply the lessons to tiltrotors and you'll quickly realize that those aircraft are ill-suited to vertical assault. Now, if you want to do a civilian evacuation or medevac or some other non-combat action then, sure, any aircraft will be fine.

    5. "I'm also unclear how/why climbing would be a good thing in combat. Climbing just exposes the aircraft."

      I made the same point to an acquaintance of mine in conversation (he's a US Army Blackhawk pilot). As he said it to me, it's basically to exit the immediate danger zone. You climb while moving forward to build as much distance from the LZ. On one hand, you're more exposed, but you're putting yourself out of the engagement envelope of the enemy troops. It's a calculated risk.

      It's something of an inverse curve: the higher you go, the more exposed you are, but the number of weapons that can reach out to you decreases. There are a hella lot more AK barrels around than there are Dushkas, let alone Strela tubes.

      With all that said, for him the word "high" was filled with relative meanings; he used to be a Kiowa pilot, and the Kiowa community had a preference for low, fast flying in the weeds. It was unofficial SOP for the copilot to carry an M4 and use that as an additional weapon, with how low and close to the fighting the Kiowas got. Eliminating the Kiowa force was, I feel, one of Big Army's biggest mistakes.

    6. "Doctrinally, "assaulting" into a hot LZ is really only the province of special forces and Medevac."

      This is incorrect.

      The term is vertical envelopment and conventional forces execute this mission, typically as a forced entry operation.

      See FM 3-99, which was revised as of 03/06/2015.


  4. I'm starting to wonder if true air assaults like in Vietnam and beach landings assaults like we saw in WW2 are really things in the past and we just wont do it anymore. Forget having the right weapons for the job ( we don't have them), I think we just wont accept the casualties to even try them.

    US DoD talks a good game but realistically I just dont see it.

    1. "I think we just wont accept the casualties to even try them. "

      And there's the crux of the matter. By jumping into all these little 'wars' where avoidance of collateral damage was more important than any military objective, we've grown a generation or two that has come to believe that war is a 9-5, clean affair with no casualties. We are going to get a rude awakening when war with China comes.

      Here's the thing, though. America has always had a reluctance for war (despite the seemingly contradictory historical evidence!) and casualties. However, we've also had a single-minded determination to see it through regardless of cost once we committed, AS A NATION. So, the question is, will a war with China start with an event sufficient to commit us, AS A NATION, to China's destruction? If so, we'll tolerate casualties and become more determined with every one. This is in our psyche. This is who we are.

      What we won't do is tolerate casualties for a half-assed war that a President commits us to BUT THE NATION DOESN'T WANT (Vietnam, Afg, Iraq).

    2. Dieppe showed that direct amphib assaults against defended areas are costly, hence Normandy, Inchon, Anzio and the Falklands campaign used assaults against relatively benign areas.
      The US experience in the Pacific however, was rather different, it seems that some times it has to be done.

    3. The Pacific is a pretty special case, lots of water, not much land.
      But so was Normandy, mulberry harbours.

    4. "Dieppe showed that direct amphib assaults against defended areas are costly,"

      No, not exactly. It showed that stupid, ill-conceived, ill-prepared attacks are costly. To be fair, the allies were just beginning to learn the lessons of assault warfare so this early attempt could hardly have gone other than it did.

      Since you cited it, I'm sure you know that the assault lacked massive preparatory bombardment by heavy naval guns, local air support (aircraft were operating too far from base and had only minutes over the battlefield), superior localized numbers, initial assault wave armor and firepower, etc. In short, it lacked all the things that later amphibious assaults would have.

      Almost to the contrary, I'm hard pressed to cite a properly conceived and executed amphibious assault against a defended area that wasn't successful!

    5. "So, the question is, will a war with China start with an event sufficient to commit us, AS A NATION, to China's destruction?"

      If we wait long enough and don't get into

      "a half-assed war that a President commits us to"

      with them, sure. Xi's a patient guy, but he's getting old and if he doesn't trust his successor he might even do it before 2040. I doubt they would start it with anything less than the sinking of several ships, asymmetric attacks on infrastructure, and likely an assault on Taiwan in the first weeks.

      "direct amphib assaults against defended areas are costly... [better to assault] relatively benign areas... in the Pacific however... it seems that some times it has to be done"

      That last part is about contesting the critical islands of the first and second island chains. We did that a lot in WWII because we had to put our planes there, because we had to mass hundreds of planes in range of the next islands, because that - plus massive amphib assaults - is how we planned to accomplish our strategic objective of eventually winning a land battle for control of the Japanese home islands.

      None of that necessarily applies to a modern war with china, except...

      "sometimes it has to be done."

      Depending on our strategic plan to end the war in victory, we likely won't need to construct any serious infrastructure or mass conventional forces on islands presently controlled by the enemy. Considering the A2/AD environment of the first chain, I'd tend to avoid strategies that called for it. We already have several large islands and one mainland peninsula we can mass forces on with less fuss. We might have to assault some islands to more permanently degrade their air/naval port facilities without being "unconventional", but even that is a lot less demanding than the operations we saw in WWII. Of course, even that requires more shelling than we're prepared to serve.

    6. I cannot foresee any reason we would assault defended beaches or LZ's in the modern context. the unexpected happens, yea, sailing/flying straight into defenses - no way that will happen. Politics. Civilian Fecklessness. Simple Modern Ability to Bypass most problems.

      It ain't happening.

  5. In the Huey we would come in fast in a skid that lasted 20 feet and you rolled out or the Pilots would not be able to bounce it at end of skid. We did not have to worry about exhaust burns. If that thing can bounce they would have shown us that capability.

  6. Air Force Spec Ops is acquiring a special armored ATV specifically to be carried by the MV-22 so they can land 50 or more miles away then drive in for the pilot recovery. Army and Marines the same thing.
    Then coincidentally the Air Assault school closes?
    Yea, heliborne assault and hot LZ’s are not on the menu regardless of platform. The MV-22’s should be thought of more equivalent to WW2 glider troops landing with heavier gear than pure airborne a little further away.
    The competition the Valor is in also includes high speed helicopters as well. Those make more sense for actual troop landing. The Valor might make a better gunship or for other slots.

    The Valor might make a nice ASW platform as it can do what’s ASW chopper does but with more range and greater speed for egress. Unlike the MV-22, it might-might-be able to hover well enough to use a dipping sonar.
    For that matter, While I am NOT an osprey fan, it could be fitted with the same ASW suite as the Viking including a MAD boom since it has a 20,000lb capacity. They find them and ships-helicopters then hunt them.

    1. "While I am NOT an osprey fan, it could be fitted with the same ASW suite as the Viking including a MAD boom"

      I'm not seeing that at all. The Viking and V-22 are not even remotely similar as regards ASW performance. What's the number one requirement for airborne ASW? - Endurance! ASW is a long, patient game. The S-3 had a range of 3200 miles (greater the range, greater the endurance) versus the V-22 with a range of 1000 miles. Thus, crudely, the Viking has 3x the endurance of the V-22.

      The secondary performance requirement for airborne ASW is speed to enable it to quickly cover a given area and translate to new positions for sonobuoy emplacement. The Viking has a max speed of 429 kts (350 kts cruise) versus the V-22 max speed of 275 kts (240 kts cruise).

      Also, using a V-22 for ASW REQUIRES that we use two aircraft to fill the role: one, the V-22, to find the sub and two, another aircraft to launch a torpedo. While we're waiting for that second aircraft to arrive, the sub is working on escape. We may or may not maintain contact. The Viking could, of course, perform both functions in a single aircraft. Using a V-22 would be very inefficient.

      Finally, the V-22 occupies a deck spot of 57 ft long by 84 ft wide (due to rotors). The Viking's spot is 53 ft by 29 ft. You're looking at a V-22 occupying more than two Viking spots!

      A V-22 is ill-suited for ASW. Technically, you're correct that it can do the job to some poor degree, however, that's akin to saying that a guy in a rowboat could do ASW - technically true but utterly ineffective.

      We need to think operationally, not just whether a V-22 can carry a given weight of ASW equipment. What characteristics make for a good ASW aircraft? That's what we need to evaluate.

      If we want to do fixed wing ASW then let's do it right, not shoehorn an ill-suited V-22 into the slot just because we have it.

    2. "Finally, the V-22 occupies a deck spot of 57 ft long by 84 ft wide (due to rotors). The Viking's spot is 53 ft by 29 ft. You're looking at a V-22 occupying more than two Viking spots!"

      A minor correction. You're incorrectly comparing the Viking's folded dimensions with the Osprey's unfolded or take-off dimensions. With its blades folded and the wing rotated, the folded dimensions of an Osprey are 62.6 by 18.4 feet. For reference, with its wings folded, the F-14 measured 62.8 by 38 feet.

    3. "the folded dimensions of an Osprey"

      I completely forgot that the V-22 has a folding capability! Good reminder. Thanks!

    4. The E-2 may be a better starting point. The base airframe is probably significantly cheaper than the v-22. It has good endurance.

    5. I would think the S-3 Viking would be the logical starting (and ending!) point.

    6. Except that it's no longer in service or production.

    7. A poor choice that's in production is still a poor choice.

  7. Another point worth mentioning is the Army FLRAA budget target is $43M, though Bell said would come in below with the V-280, but that still more than double cost of a UH-60, so Army will have halve number of future helicopter fleet for same fnding?

    The higher priority FARA scout helicopter, Army mandated a maximum width of no more than 40 feet, counting rotor blades, fuselage, and (for tiltrotor designs) the wings — and a maximum length of 46.5 feet', Bell proposing version of their 525 a conventional helicopter, as tilt rotor a no go as it would be too big, showing up one of the tiltrotor design limitations.

  8. Comparisons to the V-22 aside, an ASW variant of the V-280 would be an interesting development. Compared to the Seahawk, the V-280 is 100 knots faster with much greater range (500 nmi). The trick is to design it to carry enough torpedoes, sonobouys, and processing equipment while able to fit inside a ship's hanger. And, unlike the V-22, the engines don't rotate, only the rotor section does. This obviates the need for additional thermal protection to the flight deck.

    1. One of the major drawbacks to the V-22 in the ASW role is that it isn't a hovering (vertical flight) helo, as the Seahawk is. It can't safely, reliably, economically (fuel consumption), or stably hover while employing a dipping sonar or doing any of the other ASW actions that the Seahawk does in a hover. That, alone, makes it an unacceptable replacement for the Seahawk ASW role.

      Now, one might suggest that the V-22 will simply do the job differently than the Seahawk and just not hover (although that makes employment of a dipping sonar impossible and the dipping sonar is the main helo sensor!). Fair enough but that now puts the V-22 into the fixed wing ASW role - the old S-3 Viking role - and the V-22 compares very poorly to the S-3 in every ASW performance requirement.

      So, no matter which way the V-22 goes - attempted Seahawk hover or attempted S-3 fixed wing - the V-22 comes out as unacceptable for the role.

      Now, turning to the v-280, it compares just as poorly as the V-22 to the fixed wing S-3. The question is, how does it compare to the Seahawk in the hover ASW role? Can it safely hover for extended periods while operating a dipping sonar? Can it hover without increasing its fuel consumption rate several times over compared to horizontal flight? I have no idea but those are the questions that must be asked and answered in order to consider the V-280 for an ASW role.

      We need to move away from asking whether a given piece of equipment can fit in a platform and, instead, ask whether the platform can perform the role effectively, safely, and efficiently.

    2. From Wiki on the V-280, "While the Osprey has a higher disk loading and lower hover efficiency than a helicopter, the V-280 will have a lower disk loading, and longer wing for greater hover and cruise efficiency.[12] As the AW609 has already performed autorotation, it is expected that the V-280 (with similar disc loading) will demonstrate the same capability."

      It remains to be seen how efficient the V-280 is in hover mode. But, its designers seems to have recognized this and tried to improve those flight qualities.

      I'm not sure how much time a Seahawk uses its dipping sonar. Is it an hour? Two, maybe? But, while using sonobouys, a V-280 could fly more efficiently than a helicopter. And, given its speed advantage, it could get to the search area much quicker than a helicopter. But, how well and how long it can remain on station in hover mode is important and remains to be seen.

    3. "I'm not sure how much time a Seahawk uses its dipping sonar."

      The Navy has de-emphasized sonobuoys. The MH-60R uses the dipping sonar as its main ASW sensor.

  9. I realize this is a bit late, and don't know if anyone will see it, but I just saw this topic and thought I'd give it a try on some selected points. Please bear with me, I'll have to break it up into more than one post becasue of the character limit.

    There seem to be a number of misconceptions here. I'm just going to pick some at random because i don't want to write and you don't want to read a book.

    First let me address the agility demonstration that so many are disparaging. The V-280 is a technology Demonstrator for the JMR program. It's not even considered a prototype by the Army. Same goes for the SB>1. It is also the only one in existence, also same as for SB>1. As a result, Army is not asking the companies to risk their only models in full blown flights that they would for an aircraft entering service. They only want to see that the technologies can do certain things that would be part of tactical operations in production models. That's what the V-280 is demonstrating, that it can do specific moves specified by the Army that would be part of more complete maneuvers should the aircraft be ordered into service. Complaining that it didn't demonstrate complete tactical assault arrivals and departures misses the point. It's not intended to at this point. Again, same as SB>1. Your definition of low speed agility is a good one, but at this early point they are not being required to demonstrate all that, just that it could be reasonably expected that a production version could do it, and that the V-280 did.

    1. Part 2: As mentioned, tactical minimum ground assault ala Vietnam is inherently a high risk maneuver, even without enemy fire. You don't see Black Hawks doing it all that often. And if you aren't flying into a hot LZ (which we try to avoid nowadays), it's not necessary at all, so a normal approach landing troop deployment and departure is more safer, an so tha's wha's usually done by everyone. In any case, there's nothing to indicate that a V-280 would be any less capable than a Black Hawk and arguably better. As far as size goes, unfolded it's wider but shorter, even though it carries a larger load. Folded, it fits into the same cube as an UH-1Y. In a designated 105 x 68m field with the same spacing between aircraft, you can fit the same number of V-280s as UH-60 Black Hawks (actually the UH-60s will take up a little bit more space in length. Also keep in mind that DoD has learned its lesson and the V-280 is designed to operate at design load in hot and high conditions (which admittedly drives up costs).

      Another point about referencing the V-22 when talking about the V-280:. The V-22 is 30 year old technology and is not the replacement for the UH-1/UH-60. it is the replacement for the CH-46 and so must be evaluated in the context of that mission. It is not as agile as the Black Hawk, nor was it ever required to be, just like the Phrog wasn't. OTOH, it goes a lot faster and a lot farther. As far as safety goes, it is now considered USMC's safest rotorcraft. It has been flying for over 30 years and total death toll is 42, which includes testing and combat. I believe there hasn't been a single life lost in combat operations. If one looks at the ambush at Bor, it's doubtful that a conventional rotorcraft could have made it out of there and then flown far and fast enough to get the wounded to safety. Conventional helos had to wait until the rebels were no longer a factor before they could even try and get in.

    2. Part 3: For some reason, when I previewed my posts and then published, it wouldn't keep my name

      Regarding V-22 performance. Yes, it climbs much faster after transition, just like Anonymous said. In a vertical climb before transition, it's in the same class as late model H-60s (and Much better than the UH-60s of the time when it was developed). After transition it normally can climb at twice their rate even faster in an emergency situation (after all, at that point it's an airplane). The V-280 even at this early stage has demonstrated climb in excess of 4,500 fpm (I don't know at what weight). Frankly in a hot situation, you'd probably want to get out of the area fastest and then climb.

      Regarding the V-22 and ASW, that was a Cold War concept not to replace the S-3, but rather as a VTOL ASW asset with greater range and endurance than the SH-3 or upcoming SH-60. It would be deployed closer to the action. Also, we had a real concern about Soviet boomers under the ice and one proposal was that an "SV-22" could lower a dipper though a hole in the ice, set down and run the APU for heat while listening for hours at a time. With the end of the Cold War and the "Peace Dividend", ASW fell way down in priority and that went away. Regarding how fast an Osprey can transition on departure, there are plenty of youtube videos that show it accelerating and transitioning as as speed increased into the wingborne arena right from takeoff I've personally seen the actual aircraft do this. Compare those with a CH-46/47 departure.

    3. Despite being an older post, I'm notified of, and see, all comments so feel free to comment on old posts! Unfortunately, it's likely that very few other readers will see it but, at least, I will.

      "V-280 is demonstrating, that it can do specific moves specified by the Army that would be part of more complete maneuvers"

      You missed the point to some degree. I have no problem with doing minor maneuvers that provide an indication of greater capability but there are two points to consider that bear on my negative reaction:

      1. The announcements didn't state that the aircraft was conducting minor flight envelope maneuvers that mean nothing. Instead, the announcements were raving success about the aircraft's low speed agility with many articles implying or explicitly stating that it proved its combat fitness. If you're (you, being whoever makes the announcements) going to make the claims then I'll evaluate the event relative to the claim. The claims were for combat fitness so I evaluated the event that way.

      2. I'm also concerned about the trend over the last couple decades to demonstrate some small piece of capability and then, with no further proof or demonstrations, extrapolate that to full blown production and claimed full combat fitness. For example, the LCS 57 mm gun ran, as best I can determine, a single demonstration involving a land based gun shooting at an anchored boat - about as unrealistic as you can get. We then bought into it and installed on the LCS where it immediately proved almost useless due to numerous problems. If the V-280 is going to be extensively tested under combat scenarios before we commit to it then, great. However, I'm already reading articles calling for the V-280 to be put into immediate production.

      Do you see, now, the basis for my negative reaction to the event?

    4. "there's nothing to indicate that a V-280 would be any less capable than a Black Hawk and arguably better"

      This is exactly the kind of blind faith, based on nothing, that I just finished describing. The more correct statement is there's nothing to indicate that a V-280 would be any better than a Black Hawk and possibly worse. There is not a single bit of evidence that a V-280 can perform any relevant combat maneuver and yet, here you are, already suggesting it's equal to or better than existing aircraft.

      The V-280 might be better but there is zero evidence of that, as yet. Again, do you see the basis for my negative reaction?

    5. " it is the replacement for the CH-46 and so must be evaluated in the context of that mission."

      No. It must be evaluated in the context of the missions it is claimed to be able to perform and combat landings are one of those missions.

    6. The V-22 can do combat assaults at least as well as the CH-46, though not necessarily in the same manner. it was one of the requirements. If a CH-46 at cruise happens to overfly an area that it suddenly decides it wants to land at, it can get down quicker than a V-22 because it's traveling slower, usually lower and doesn't have to transition. The V-22 can do scads of things the CH-46 can't but no one is better at everything than everybody. As with all things, it's tradeoffs.

      As i said, there are plenty of films out there, showing V-22s taking off and transitioning rapidly. They don't do it two feet in the air, speed has to be built up. During that phase they're moving like a helicopter because that's what they are. Watch a Harrier or F-35 depart from a vertical takeoff. Initially they aren't that fast, about like a helo, until they get forward speed for wing lift, yet no one would call them slow aircraft.

      In normal operations, when a dramatic arrival/departure isn't necessary, and for most of what we've done for the last 25 years has been like that, for safety and sirframe considerations, a normal landing/takeoff is performed, profile dependent on what you want to do. This holds true for conventional helos as well.

      Sort of like you don't skid to a stop at every red light or floor it every time the light turns green [at least I hope you don't :)].

    7. I'm going to reply to your other posts here 'cause that's where the "Reply" button is. I'm separating them so I don't hit the character limit.

      Regarding the low speed agility. The Army as part of the JMR-TD program said the participants have to be able to do certain things at low speed, things that are part of later complete maneuvers. In other words, "Show us you can do these, then we'll believe we should keep looking at you for more complex stuff down the road. If you can't show us this, have a nice day and goodbye, because you won't be able to do what we'll need for full combat capability". Also, many Tilt-Rotor enemies like to put out "authoritative" proclamations that Tilt-Rotors are lumbering hulks with no maneuverability or incapable of doing anything but going fast. The low speed agility demonstration wa the last datapoint Bell had to hit in the JMR requirements demonstration. Now that they've done that they've met or exceeded every Army requirement for this phase. They've also shown that the "lumbering" crowd is wrong again. That's what they were showing off. They've proven the technology is ready for the next step.

    8. "In normal operations, ... for most of what we've done for the last 25 years"

      This is the key point. We don't design and acquire assets for the normal that we've done for the bulk of the last 25 years. We design and acquire for the 1% which is high end combat.

      If all we want is a pedestrian helo to leisurely land and take off which is what the vast majority of the actual operations are, then we don't need, and shouldn't have bought a V-22 and shouldn't be looking at a V-280 or anything else. Just a run of the mill helo will do just fine.

      But, that's not what we design for. We design for that one war, that one assault landing into a hot LZ where the entire battle or war rests on the outcome. That's why military assets are so expensive (well, there's lot of reasons!).

      So, what you're saying about the 99% of usage is true but nearly irrelevant. A military machine (aircraft, ship, tank, whatever) lives for, and justifies its existence in, that 1%.

      Now, this raises my proposed two tier, peace/war force construct. For the 99%, let's not buy a V-22. Let's buy a commercial, run of the mill helo. Then, let's design an asset for the 1% that can do the job exquisitely well. Think about it. If you want a vertical assault platform that is the best possible for that task and that alone, would it be a V-22? Unlikely. I don't know what it would be but whatever it would be is what we should have, if we think vertical assaults are a viable option (personally, I don't think they're viable in the modern battlefield but that's a separate issue).

      Trying to design a asset that's good for the 99% and the 1% results in an asset that is hugely overspec'ed and overpriced for the 99% and compromised and ill-suited for the 1%.

      Does this make sense to you?

    9. " "there's nothing to indicate that a V-280 would be any less capable than a Black Hawk and arguably better"

      This is exactly the kind of blind faith, based on nothing, that I just finished describing. The more correct statement is there's nothing to indicate that a V-280 would be any better than a Black Hawk and possibly worse."

      Sorry, can't follow your reasoning here. I would opine that you are expressing blind cynicism, based on nothing.

      So far the V-280 has met or exceeded every requirement Army has had for JMR-TD. It has also met or exceeded everything Bell has promised. We already know that it will go farther and faster than the Black Hawk. Keep in mind that the whole point of FLRAA is to develop an air vehicle that's more capable than the Black Hawk. So with what we know now, with what's been demonstrated, what points to a production vehicle being "...possibly worse than the Black Hawk"?

    10. "with what's been demonstrated, what points to a production vehicle being "...possibly worse than the Black Hawk"? "

      The fact that it has done nothing that actually demonstrates useful combat capability. It might be worlds better … or it might be horribly worse. We have no idea. Read my sentence very carefully. I stated that there is nothing to indicate that the V-280 would be better and that's absolutely true. It's demonstrated nothing. That doesn't mean that it can't, someday, perform well; just that it hasn't demonstrated anything yet. I also stated that it might be worse. Again, true. It might also be better. Until it demonstrates combat capability, we know nothing.

      Consider how many projects have been developed to early stages, were pronounced the next great revolution in military technology, and then failed miserably? The LCS, for example, or the Zumwalt, or the LRLAP, or … on and on. Thus, I give the V-280 (or any new project) no acceptance until it proves itself. Thus far, the V-280 has rocked back and forth … that's it. Nothing more. That demonstrates … nothing.

      You're approaching this as if I'm saying the V-280 is a complete failure. I'm not. I'm saying that it's nothing. It's not good, it's not bad. It's nothing, as yet. There is no reason to believe it will succeed nor is there any reason to believe it will fail.

      I also return to the original criticism which, as I pointed out, was prompted by claims of success that are totally unwarranted by what's been actually demonstrated. If the announcement claims some kind of success (totally proven low level agility) then I'll evaluate the evidence based on that claim. In this case, rocking back and forth hardly proves low level agility to any useful degree. If the manufacturer doesn't want to be evaluated against that standard yet, then they shouldn't make the claim.

    11. The buying commercial helo idea just doesn't work. It's been tried, but combat or potential combat requires too many things that you just can't get with an off the shelf civil machine, sand civil ones have things built in that are unnecessary for military operations. Plus the civils are designed for a more benign environment with more available maintenance Now, the UH-72 is very close to a off the shelf commercial machine, but Army has made it quite clear they have no plans for it to ever go anywhere near combat.

      The thing about the 1%-99% thing is that while it sounds great from an economist's point of view, you run into a number of issues, one of the biggest being how do you know in advance where and when you'll need the 99% model and where and when the 1%? Heck! Why have a Black Hawk, let alone a V-280?

      What I was trying to illustrate was that the reason you don't see a V-22 constantly operating like a Huey under fire did back in Vietnam is because most of the time we don't have that situation. One of the other posters pointed out that doing that kind of operation, you lose a bunch of helos even if they aren't shot down, just by the nature of doing it. Remember that when they took out Bin Laden they were doing a combat assault and we lost one of the choppers even though it was never fired upon. So, you don't see the V-22 doing it a lot because it doesn't need to do it a lot. That's what I was trying to describe.

    12. "The buying commercial helo idea just doesn't work."

      I don't mean that literally. I mean it conceptually that, given undemanding circumstances, any halfway decent asset can work.

      "how do you know in advance where and when you'll need the 99% model and where and when the 1%?"

      That's what intel and recon are for. What's the key to strategic success? Logistics, logistics, logistics!

      What's the key to tactical success? Recon, recon, recon!

      If you don't know ahead of time what you need then you badly screwed the pooch in your preparation. Sure, there may be a once in a great while occurrence where you're surprised but that should be very rare.

      Plus, if you're in a war, you need the high end asset. If you're not, you don't. It's actually pretty simple.

  10. Part 4: Well I guess the trick is not to preview

    I could go on, but I'd like to get back to the V-280. it is a much more agile craft than the V-22 or other larger craft. There's nothing to indicate it can't get out of an LZ at least as fast as a helicopter, and would probably start its transition to fixed wing flight pretty early and then it would Really accelerate.. One thing about the comment made, "...because helicopters are pigs, aerodynamically". A little extreme one might say, but also irrelevant. If you've got a long enough runway or smooth enough field with sufficient clearance at both ends, a VTOL never makes sense. But if you need to get into an area where you don't, then you need a VTOL, be it helicopter or something else. Regarding NoE flight, there's nothing to indicate a Tilt-Rotor would be any less capable of it than a helicopter of the same vintage.

    Regarding compound helicopters... for over 50 years they've been touted as being just as capable yet despite multiple tries, nowhere in the world has even one made it into operational service, so we can't say with any certainty what they would be capable of.

    Regarding Sikorsky's competitor for JMR and FLRAA (which is the future competition to develop an actual operatinal aircraft) , the SB>1, the coaxial technology it uses is referred to as X2. Throughout the various postings here it is discussed as if it is in the same state as Tilt-Rotor. While it may prove successful in the future, it's not even close to the same state today. All the X2s that have flown so far have been behind schedule.

    On all of them, numerous times dates have been announced for accomplishing a certain milestone or achieving a certain goal, only to have the date pass with no explanation. The SB>1, Sikorsky-Boeing's demonstrator for JMR, was 1 1/4 years behind the V-280 in getting into the air (with multiple announced dates missed) even though they were supposed to be on the same schedule. The only explanation given has been that it was much harder to build the rotor blades than was thought. If true, this certainly doesn't bode well for series production or operations in the field.

    The S-97 has been flying for a while and it was supposed to be a prototype for an operational aircraft for an Army scout or for export. Yet the V-280 in its first six months of flight achieved more than the S-97 had in three years. The S-97 was also supposed to demonstrate the outstanding agility of the concept, but so far we haven't seen that much. After four years I don't know if it has accomplished all the maneuvers we saw the V-280 do in the video. It's interesting that for the upcoming FARA competition, a mission for which the S-97 was supposedly designed, that Sikorsky is not going to submit the S-97 but rather a new X2 "based on" the technologies of the S-97. We just don't know what the technology can Actually do (as opposed to promised).

    My point is not just to bash Sikorsky. it's simply to point out that we are in no way talking about two technologies that at this point are anywhere near equally mature or viable.

    1. Just a point of interest, the Soviet/Russian Kamov series helos have dual rotors and have operated quite successfully for decades. They don't have the little 'pusher(?)' blade at the rear so maybe that leaves them in a completely different class? I don't follow helo technology closely enough to know. Any thoughts on the Kamovs?

  11. Sikorsky's X2 technology is completely different from Kamov's. Kamov's is basically just a conventional twin rotor helicopter with the rotors stacked over each other.

    Sikorsky uses rigid rotors spaced close together controlled by a custom Fly By Wire system avoiding harmonics and resonance and reduce vibration. Also, they slow down in higher speed to avoid the tips going supersonic. Further, in higher speeds the rotor functions as a pure lift device, propulsion being provided by the prop in the rear. With Kamov, the rotors always provide both lift and propulsion, which limits speed, even if you put on a pusher prop.

    Sikorsky says their technology will allow for much higher speeds with greater agility. However, as I've stated, in all the years they've been flying X2s, so far they've really only demonstrated that it flies and can go fast in a straight line.


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