Spirit AeroSystems is preparing to ship the first fuselage to Bell Helicopter for the US Army’s joint multi-role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme.

Designed and assembled in Spirit’s rapid prototyping facility in Wichita, Kansas, US, in 22 months, the composite fuselage will soon be transferred to Bell’s Amarillo, Texas, facility for final assembly.

Spirit president and CEO Larry Lawson said: "Spirit’s unique capability to design, build and deliver with the highest quality and lowest possible cost make us a great partner on revolutionary programmes like the Bell V-280."

Spirit Defense senior vice-president Phil Anderson said: "Spirit AeroSystems is proud to be an investing member of Team Valor with ten other premier aerospace companies.

"Together we are helping the Department of Defense inform requirements and reduce risk on a new development programme while at the same time providing the capabilities to win on the battlefield."

Developed with an army-centric design, the Bell V-280 Valor is said to be capable of providing the combatant commanders with an ability to conduct multiple vertical lift missions with enhanced agility and twice the speed and range of other legacy helicopters.

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Offering high value in procurement, operations, and support, as well as force structure, the helicopter has fewer parts, lowering complexity compared with previous generation tiltrotors.

"Spirit AeroSystems is proud to be an investing member of Team Valor with ten other premier aerospace companies."

The V-280 is slated to embark on its maiden flight in the second half of 2017.

The JMR-TD programme represents the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift programme, with the aim to replace 2,000 to 4,000 medium-class utility and attack helicopters.

The JMR family of helicopters are expected to be fitted with enhanced avionics, electronics, range, speed, propulsion, survivability, operating density altitudes and payload capacities.

Other competitors bidding for the project include AVX Aircraft, Karem Aircraft, and the Sikorsky Aircraft-Boeing team.

Image: The first fuselage for Bell V-280 Valor helicopter was built in 22 months. Photo: © 2015 Spirit AeroSystems.