HELI-EXPO: Bell will pitch third-gen tilt-rotor for JMR/FVL

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Bell Helicopter will pitch a third-generation tilt-rotor design for the US Army's Joint Multi-Role/Future Vertical Lift (JMR/FVL) programme, a top company official says.

"We felt we needed to lead on tilt-rotors going forward on the JMR/Future Vertical Lift," says John Garrison, president and chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter, speaking at the Heli-Expo 2013 trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. "We think that puts us in the best position to exploit the capabilities of the tilt-rotor in the JMR/FVL arena."

Garrison says that his company's proposed third-generation tilt-rotor design will be unveiled in April at the Army Aviation Association of America conference in Dallas, Texas. He adds that the company is attracting high-powered design talent for the effort.

While a risk-sharing partner might prove to be beneficial, Bell does not need outside financial help to develop its new tilt-rotor design, Garrison says. Nonetheless, the Bell is currently looking at potential partners. Garrison cautions, however, any partner would have to contribute both technically and financially.

Bell is one of four companies that have been selected by the US Army to pursue high speed rotorcraft designs for its JMR/FVL programme, which the service hopes will enter service in the 2030s. Proposals are due in to the army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) by 6 March.

Boeing, which is partnered with Bell on the current generation Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, has teamed with rival Sikorsky to propose a compound helicopter design for the JMR/FVL programme based on the later company's X-2 prototype.

But Garrison says that the army believes that tilt-rotors are the most "operationally effective" high-speed rotorcraft concept. He added that he expects that the JMR/FVL programme will ultimately come down to a battle between a tilt-rotor design and a pusher-propeller design like the X-2.

Garrison notes that the Boeing teaming up with Sikorsky has no bearing on their collaboration on the V-22 programme.