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Bell unveils V-247 Vigilant VTOL unmanned combat drone mock-up at Modern Day Marine Expo 2018


On 25 September, Bell unveiled a full-scale mock-up of its next-generation V-247 Vigilant vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial system at Modern Day Marine Expo 2018 taking place at Quantico Marine Corps Base.


Bell unveils V 247 Vigilant VTOL unmanned combat drone mock up at Modern Day Marine Expo 2018 1 The Bell V-247 can accompany any asset into contested territory, providing protection, early warning, or interdiction (Picture source: Bell)


The V-247 uses a technology derived from both the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, which the USMC already operates, and the still-in-development V-280 Valor, which the company has pitched to the U.S. Army as part of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. The Vigilant will be capable of autonomous flight and will have the necessary data links to support teaming up with manned aircraft, according to Bell. The company also says the drone can turn its wings and fold its rotors in order to fit within the same physical footprint as a Marine UH-1Y Venom utility and light attack helicopter, which is a key MUX requirement (let's remind that MUX stands for Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) UAS Expeditionary).

According to the Bell’s statement, the Bell V-247 Vigilant has been designed as an armed escort in multi-domain operations, providing counter integrated air defense, electronic warfare, early warning, and precision fires. The Vigilant unmanned system will combine unparalleled capability with unprecedented flexibility to execute a wide array of missions, including ISR, escort, or persistent fire missions – all with the benefits of extended endurance with modular mission packages.

The V-247 can accompany any asset into contested territory, providing protection, early warning, or interdiction. Autonomous flight capability of new Bell’s unmanned system provides added flexibility to the escorted crew chief, allowing for the re-tasking of ISR sensors. Perform day or night as a picket, providing an extended line for sea or land-based assets and giving advanced warning to commanders, and can likewise be armed due to the platform’s air-to-air missile capability.

Bell’s mock-up at the Modern Day Marine Expo was carrying four dummy AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and a dozen inert Fury multi-mode precision-guided miniature munitions. Textron, Bell’s parent company, produces Fury, which is a small glide bomb that can use either laser or GPS/INS guidance options to attack stationary or moving targets in various weather and environmental conditions.

The V-247 model at the Modern Day Marine Expo also notably features an in-flight refueling probe, which was not present on earlier models and in previous concept art of the design. This feature, combined with the Marines' plans to adopt an aerial refueling tanker kit for the Osprey, would help extend the overall range of the drones or allow them to loiter over a particular area of the battlefield for extended periods of time.


Bell unveils V 247 Vigilant VTOL unmanned combat drone mock up at Modern Day Marine Expo 2018 2 MUX programme (Illustration source: USMC)