Bell’s Special Missions Aircraft ‘meet new demand’
Demand for military helicopters is creating a new market for civil helicopters modified for multi-mission military capabilities, according to Bell. This demand was creating “ready now solutions” with proven track records.
“Bell is leveraging its experience across civil, para-public, and military helicopter domains to meet this demand with the Special Missions Aircraft, SMA, initiative,” it said. Such aircraft are supplementing the manufacturer’s military portfolio, which includes its Viper and Venom helicopters and Osprey and new Valor tiltrotors. “Civil modified aircraft offer an in-between option between pure military and commercial platforms that provide more options,” said Mike Deslatte, Bell vice president and H-1/SMA programme director.
Bell’s SMA aircraft are identified with the desination M following the model number. The 407M (pictured), which shares a DNA and history with Bells OH-58 light attack and reconnaissance aircraft, made its public debut in a six-station configuration at the Army Aviation Association of America Mission Solutions Summit in May.
Bell Special Missions Aircraft can be configured for a range of non-combat missions such as medical evacuation or search and rescue (SAR). This is in addition to military configuration for deployment on light attack and reconnaissance flights.
In addition to versatile and reconfigurable aircraft, Bell’s global support system ensures aircraft reliability, says the manufacturer.
“If you don’t have parts for helicopter maintenance, that cuts off your ability to conduct critical missions,” said Brian Vollmer, special mission aircraft programme manager. “Continuous and immediate parts and support make the difference in the ability to leverage helicopters in missions where seconds can make a difference.”
Bell said it was expanding its offering across other civil aircraft to leverage their designs and capabilities. The Bell 505 can be configured as a military trainer and shares the same glass cockpit avionics as the 407M, enabling ease of transition from training to missions, it added. At the Paris Air Show 2023, the Bell 429 was configured as a law enforcement demonstrator and is said to feature the best tail rotor authority in its class.
Meanwhile, the Bell 412 integrates new upgrades into a proven platform originally deployed as the Huey. “More than 100 para-public and para-military operators currently leverage the world-renowned workhorse for utility, reconnaissance and community protection missions,” said Bell.