Bell V280 Valor's first down-stop flight in Amarillo, Texas in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Bell
Foreseeing major future investment by the U.S. Defense Department in advanced vertical-lift technologies, Bell has opened up shop in the Pentagon-adjacent forest of commercial high rises where its primary competitors have owned buildings for years.
Bell cuts the ribbon on its new Advanced Vertical Lift Center (AVLC) Wednesday in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia, just south of the Pentagon and a short Metro ride from Capitol Hill across the Potomac River. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have built major secondary headquarters in the neighborhood.
The new Bell office is designed for the company’s military customers, partners and policy makers to “interact with technology that is defining the future of vertical lift,” the company said in a statement. Specifically, Bell is increasing its presence in the National Capital Region so it can better pitch technologies like its V-280 Valor advanced tiltrotor to the U.S. Army and other services.
“We have a long-standing history of forward thinking, and we are committed to delivering overmatch capabilities to our military,” Bell CEO Mitch Snyder said in a prepared statement. “The AVLC was designed so we can demonstrate innovative and breakthrough technologies to those involved with national security interests.”
The V-280 is an entrant for the Army’s ongoing Joint Multirole Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) program. Based on its performance and that of the SB>1 Defiant built by Sikorsky and Boeing, the Army plans to write requirements for a family of futuristic rotorcraft envisioned as a scalable replacement for all of its legacy helicopter fleets.
Bell Executive VP of Military Business Vince Tobin recently told R&WI the center will serve as an education center for both the public and potential customers about the future of vertical-lift technology through simulations and demonstrations.
The “experience,” as Bell calls it, will provide an interactive atmosphere. On display will be everything across Bell’s product range, including its unmanned and urban air mobility technology, which Tobin said Bell is looking into for military applications.
“It’s very difficult at Bell to draw a bright line to say this is commercial and this is military. Our technology is intertwined,” he said. “We fully expect there are things we are developing for the commercial world that are going to have applications in military and vice versa.”
A flight simulator will allow visitors to take control of the V-280 and experience the agility and speed of the world’s latest tiltrotor technologies, the company said.
Something called a “mission table” will deliver an interactive and visual representation of how complex operational requirements can be met with the speed, range and lethality the V-280 offers as a solution for the U.S. government’s FVL program.
An augmented reality demonstration shows how the use of Bell’s digital thread technology impacts design, build and sustainment by bringing hands-on training and maintenance support to remote locations while a separate virtual reality experience is focused on giving visitors an immersive look at how the V-280 is designed to deliver tactical overmatch.
“We are committed to helping our customers regain dominance in vertical lift, and the AVLC is an opportunity for our team to show real solutions for pressing challenges using the power of flight,” said Jeff Schloesser, EVP for strategic pursuits at Bell. “We have to create and sustainably deliver new capabilities, such as the V-280, for warfighters to have operational overmatch. We intend for this office to support our nation’s military modernization.”