Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft has taken to the skies for the first time. The December 18 flight at the company's Amarillo Assembly Center in Texas comes only a little over two months after the prototype made its first tethered flight at the same location. The aircraft, which is designed to fly twice as fast as conventional helicopters, is being developed as part of the US Department of Defense's Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative to create a new generation of tilt-rotor airframes.

The Valor was developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin, GE, Moog, IAI, TRU Simulation & Training, Astronics, Eaton, GKN Aerospace, Lord, Meggitt, and Spirit AeroSystems. According to Bell, the V-280 is a designed to be lighter, simpler, and less expensive than the V-22 Osprey. The extensive use of composites in honeycomb sandwich configurations with large-cell carbon cores in the fuselage, wing and tail section, allowed engineers to achieve a 30 percent improvement in weight savings despite the integrated cabin armor.

Other improvements in the V-280 include moving the engines from the rotor nacelles to the fuselage for a simpler construction that also allows both rotors to run on one engine in an emergency. The Valor carries a crew of two and can manage 14 troops or a payload topping 12,000 lb (5,400 kg). It has a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph, 520 km/h), a combat range of up to 800 nm (920 mi, 1,481 km), and can hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 6,000 ft (1,800 m) at temperatures of 95° F (35° C).

"This is an exciting time for Bell Helicopter, and I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight of the Bell V-280," says Mitch Snyder, President and CEO for Bell Helicopter. "First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership's modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives. The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake."

The maiden launch can be seen in the video below.

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