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Fort Worth’s Bell Textron wins contract to replace Black Hawk

The Army selected Bell Textron to develop the next generation of combat aircraft, based on Bell's V-280 Valor tiltrotor.

The Army selected Bell Textron to develop the next generation of combat aircraft, based on Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor.


Fort Worth-based Bell Textron Inc. has been awarded a development contract potentially worth billions of dollars for the U.S. Army’s next-generation helicopter to replace its fleet of Black Hawks.

Textron announced the award Monday for what’s called the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, program. The award is based on Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor that was developed and tested as part of the program that began in 2013.

The Army’s choice of Bell Textron for the massive contract beat out Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The V-280 Valor functions like a helicopter when taking off or landing, but can reconfigure in the air to fly faster than traditional helicopters.

V280 Horizon.jpg
The Army selected Bell Textron to develop the next generation of combat aircraft, based on Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor. Clock

The competition among manufacturers to develop the next-generation aircraft came as the Army plans to retire the aging UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, which are built by Sikorsky.

Reuters reported that army officials said the initial price was $232 million, but the initial production of helicopters could be worth $7.1 billion. Ultimately, the contract is potentially worth about $70 billion over the years, the Army told reporters Monday evening.

The Army says Bell’s V-280 Valor has reached speeds of more than 340 mph, Reuters reported. Bell says the aircraft can take off at a moment’s notice with “exceptional range capability”, giving more flexibility for urgent military operations or humanitarian missions. The company says it leveraged more than 600,000 hours of tiltrotor experience to produce the V-280 Valor.

Bell Textron employs more than 4,000 people in North Texas. Textron shares jumped nearly 12% in after-hours trading, hitting $78, the highest since January.

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

Bell held a demonstration of its V-280 Valor in January 2020 at the Air Research Center in Arlington, to an audience that included Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and other officials. The aircraft flew over the 2019 Fort Worth Alliance Air Show.

V-280 Value
This is the Bell V-280 Valor that flew a demonstration for military officials and U.S. Rep. Granger, R-Fort Worth, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Bell Helicopter Flight Research Center in Arlington. Anna M. Tinsley

“There’s nothing like seeing this,” U.S. Rep. Kay Granger said at the time, after seeing the demonstration. She is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

The V-280 evolved through design, production and more than three years of rigorous flight testing, Bell Textron said. The testing validated the “technical and operational advantages of the aircraft for the long-range strike mission,” the company said.

The Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor takes off and lands like a helicopter, but can reconfigure in mid-air to fly much faster. The Army intends to replace its aging Black Hawks. Clock

The UH-60 Black Hawk has been the Army’s workhorse for more than 40 years, a “simple, robust and reliable helicopter system” that entered service in 1979 and has seen action in every major Army operation including Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. The Army’s current fleet includes more than 2,000 of the helicopters.

The next generation of workhorses will include technology, efficiency and maneuverability that could not have been imagined 43 years ago.

“This is an exciting time for the U.S. Army, Bell and Team Valor as we modernize the Army’s aviation capabilities for decades to come,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell. “Bell has a long history of 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 attack weapon system in the world.”

Sen. Ted Cruz praised the Army’s decision, saying in a statement that it recognizes Bell Textron’s “quality craftsmanship and state-of-the-art manufacturing technology.”

“No state has given more to protect our country than Texas, and I am proud that Texans will build the next generation of helicopters to dominate our enemies on the battlefield,” he wrote.

Bell said the first contract refines “weapon system design, maintenance, digital operations, manufacturing, system integration, flight testing and airworthiness qualification.”

Bell was founded by Lawrence Dale Bell in 1935, as Bell Aircraft Corp. in Buffalo, NY. He moved the company to Fort Worth in 1951.

Today, Bell is a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., a multi-industry company that also includes Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft, as well as other vehicles and products.

This story was originally published December 5, 2022 6:44 p.m.

Fort Worth’s Bell Textron wins contract to replace Black Hawk

Matt Leclercq is senior managing editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He was previously the 1A editor at USA Today in Washington, DC; national news editor for Gatehouse Media in Austin; and editor of The Fayetteville (NC) Observer.

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