Bell Textron modifies its civilian helicopters into military aircraft with the SMA (Special Missions Aircraft) initiative. The company is leveraging its experience across civil and military helicopter domains to meet this demand.
As countries look to take more prominent stances in defense, finding the best combination of capability and cost has created a market for civil helicopters modified for multi-mission military capabilities. These needs are amplified by growing international instability and require ready now solutions with proven track records.
“Bell’s military portfolio, between the AH-1Z Viper, UH-1Y Venom and the V-22 Osprey, and now the V-280 Valor, is one of the most versatile on the market, and 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 program director.
Bell’s SMA aircraft are identified with the moniker “M” following the model number. The Bell 407M, which shares a DNA and history with Bells OH-58 Kiowa 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. This setup showcased the different weapon setups the aircraft could use for a variety of missions.
Bell special missions aircraft also have the ability to changeout setups for different missions. The Bell 407M can be reconfigured from light attack and reconnaissance to support non-combat missions like medical evacuation (medevac) or search and rescue (SAR).
In addition to versatile and reconfigurable aircraft, Bell aims to leverage its top-rated and globally established support system to ensure aircraft reliability.
“If you don’t have parts for helicopter maintenance, that cuts off your ability to conduct critical missions,” said Brian Vollmer, special mission aircraft program manager. “Continuous and immediate parts and support make the difference in the ability to leverage helicopters in missions where seconds can make a difference.”
Down the line, Bell is working to expand this offering across other civil aircraft to leveraging their unique designs and capabilities. As seen at Paris Airshow, the Bell 505 was configured as a military trainer and shares the same glass cockpit avionics as the Bell 407M, allowing for ease of transition from training to performance.
The Bell 429 was also configured as a state-of-the art law enforcement demonstrator and features the best tail rotor authority in its class. Drawing from a 50-year lineage dating back to the iconic UH-1 Huey, the Bell 412 integrates next-generation upgrades into a proven platform.
More than 100 para-public and para-military operators currently leverage the world-renowned workhorse for utility, reconnaissance and community protection missions.