The US Army has announced the selection of two of the five competitors in the FARA program, which will give rise to a new attack and scout helicopter. They are Bell and Sikorsky, which have surpassed the proposals of Boeing and the beginners AVX and Karem Aircraft.
The two manufacturers will now design and build prototypes of the 360 Invictus and Raider X helicopters to be evaluated by the fall of 2023, the US Army said on Wednesday when it announced the decision.
“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems,” says Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
The FARA program was launched by the Army in 2018 after the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter was taken out of service the previous year. Without a suitable replacement, the US has been using the AH-64 Apache on a provisional basis.
Among the requirements of the new helicopter are a very high cruising speed of 180kt (330 km/h) and a modular architecture that allows software updates over its lifetime. The five companies selected for Phase 1 suggested conventional and exotic proposals, using co-axial rotors, propellers, seats side by side or in tandem.
The option for the Bell 360 Invictus indicates a more conventional and tested proposal since the model will use the rotor system of the civil helicopter 525 Relentless. The prototype will also have wings to expand support and allow the main rotor to be used to propel it forward. In addition, the aircraft incorporates a “Fenestron” style faired tail rotor, introduced by Airbus.
The Raider X, in turn, is the most advanced concept. Sikorsky has been evaluating the technology of its coaxial rotor with pusher propellers since 2015 in the S-97 prototype. Both have compact dimensions to allow operation in urban environments.
The US Army plans to have the new helicopter operational by 2028.