Bell Textron Inc. executives broke ground on a new facility dedicated to testing parts for its future helicopters, including the ones Bell intends to replace the Black Hawk with as part of a contract with the U.S. Army.
The company is moving forward despite its contract being under review by the Government Accountability Office after Bell’s competitors, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Boeing, protested the Army’s decision to choose Bell.
At the new building, called the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft Drive Test Lab, the company will conduct tests to develop gearboxes that are lighter and more efficient. The $20 million, 37,775-square-foot building is expected to be completed March 30, 2024, according to the company’s registered plans with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
The building will be next to Bell’s existing drive test facilities in Grand Prairie, which has been developing transmissions and gearboxes for decades, Keith Flail, executive vice president of military business at Bell, said.
Developing more affordable, efficient gearboxes will help the company as it competes for contracts with the U.S. military, which is aiming to develop the next generation of military aircrafts, Flail said.
“The gearbox is where the magic happens,” Flail said. “We have an engine that plugs into a gearbox and that takes that engine horsepower and turns it into the power necessary to turn the rotor system to create the vertical lift of the rotor blades. So it’s that mechanism that has to be able to absorb all of that power and convert it into vertical lift thrust.”
Shortly after Bell received the Army contract worth billions of dollars to manufacture the replacement of the UH-60 Black Hawk, Sikorsky and Boeing filed a protest to review the Army’s decision.
“We’re confident that the Army has done everything that they need to do and the process is just the process and we respect the process and we’re standing by for our opportunity to get to work on this national security imperative,” Flail said.
Bell also has a weapons integration lab in Arlington and a manufacturing technology center in Fort Worth to support its efforts around competing for future helicopter contracts. The company is headquartered in Fort Worth, in Northeast Tarrant County.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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