The Future Vertical Lift program aims to create revolutionary replacements for today’s military helicopters. But how? And why? The answers lie in the speed limits built into the physics of how a helicopter flies.
Rival contractors Bell and Sikorsky (part of Lockheed Martin) both say they have transcended those limits to build dramatically faster rotorcraft, but they have taken very different paths. Both companies agree that the Bell V-280 Valor, which has wings, is more fuel-efficient in long-range flight than the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant, which just has rotors. However, they each claim their aircraft is more agile – a crucial consideration when landing troops in tight spaces or ducking behind hills and trees to hide from radar.