The US Army has selected five teams to develop and test prototypes for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program to operate a new scout helicopter in 2028. The companies awarded the contracts are Boeing, Bell, Sikorsky, but also the few known AVX Aircraft (part of the L3 group) and Karem Aircraft.
Faced with the challenge of replacing the old OH-58D Kiowa, retired in 2017, the US Army decided to accelerate the program with the aim of having the candidates flying until 2023, and then decided which proposal would be the most promising.
The companies selected have not yet revealed exactly how they intend to compete. Bell, for example, has ruled out basing its prototype on tilt-rotor technology, currently testing the V-280 Valor participating in another Army program, the FVL. Instead, it should be based on the conventional 525 Relentless helicopter.
Sikorsky, for its part, must use X2 technology of coaxial rotors and propulsion with propellers. The company tests the concept on the S-97 Raider and SB-1 Defiant models.
Although it is a Sikorsy partner at Defiant, Boeing has given no clues as to what her proposal will be for the new program. Between the two newcomers, Karem Aircraft has been known for tilt-rotor designs and also for developing military UAVs. AVX is one of the few participants to have already disclosed its concept to the US government. It’s a design similar to Sikorsky’s X2 technology, with coaxial rotors but with two ducted pusher propellers.
Stealth but not much
The US Army has been trying to find a new reconnaissance and attack helicopter for decades, but to no avail. The closest it came to it was in the 1990s with the RAH-66 Comanche prototype from Boeing and Sikorsky.
Developed as a light attack helicopter with stealth capability, the Comanche however was not as invisible to radars and ended up canceled in 2004 after the Army had spent about $ 7 billion.
This time it’s a pressing question. The AH-64 Apache were shifted to the scout function, mission in which they are not appropriate, and there is no way to seek a temporary solution in old designs. In such a hurry, it is possible that the dispute is made by aircraft quite different from each other.