Late Monday evening, the US Army awarded Textron Inc's Bell unit with the contract to build the next-generation helicopter, ending years of fierce competition between Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. to replace the aging fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks by 2030.
The Army's "Future Vertical Lift" award went to Bell's V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft, similar to the V-22 Osprey. The new aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but rotate massive props to fly like a fixed-wing aircraft at impressive speeds.
"The V-280's unmatched combination of proven tiltrotor technology coupled with innovative digital engineering and an open architecture offers the Army outstanding operational versatility for its vertical lift fleet," Bell said in a statement.
"We are honored that the US Army has selected the Bell V-280 Valor as its next-generation assault aircraft.
"We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable and transformational weapon system to meet the Army's mission requirements. We are excited to play an important role in the future of Army Aviation," Scott C. Donnelly, Textron's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Shares of Textron jumped significantly on the news, back at their highest since April...
Textron didn't release the terms of the contract. However, Bloomberg noted the contract was worth up to $1.3 billion, with development expected to take approximately 19 months.
The Army said V-280 will "provide transformational increases in speed, range, payload, and endurance to replace a portion of the Army's current assault and utility aircraft fleet."
Douglas Bush, Army assistant secretary for acquisition, told reporters at the Pentagon Monday that the selection of the V-280 "is our chance to move to the next step in this vital program." Army officials said if all contract options were exercised, it could rise to $7 billion, including the first initial low-rate production of the next-generation helicopter.
The Army has been testing and evaluating another aircraft besides the V-280: A coaxial lift compound rotor helicopter called Defiant X, built by the Lockheed-Boeing team.
Lockheed-Boeing group released a statement that the fight to win the contract wasn't over:
"We remain confident Defiant X is the transformational aircraft the US Army requires to accomplish its complex missions today and well into the future," the group said. "We will evaluate our next steps after reviewing feedback from the Army."
Rapid modernization efforts are underway for the US military. Last Friday, the Air Force unveiled the next-generation bomber called the B-21 Raider.