The U.S. Army has selected Bell Textron and Lockheed Martin Sikorsky to build prototypes for the service’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.
Bell is offering its 360 Invictus design for the program while Sikorsky is offering the Raider X compound coaxial helicopter design.
The FARA program was initiated by the U.S. Army in 2018 to develop a successor to the Bell OH-58 Kiowa armed scout helicopter as part of the larger Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.
The FARA Competitive Prototype (FARA CP) solicitation structured the program into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase.
In April 2019, five Other Transaction Authority for Prototype (OTAP) agreements for the aircraft design, build, and test of FARA were awarded for phase one. The five industry performers were AVX Aircraft Co. partnered with L3Harris, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., The Boeing Company, Karem Aircraft, Inc. and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (Lockheed Martin). Phase one ended when the government conducted an initial design and risk review assessment with each performer and selected these two performers to continue into phase two.
Today’s decision transitions into phase two as the two performers will complete detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions. This phase will end with a government flight test evaluation no later than the fall of 2023.
The two designs selected for the FARA prototype phase are:
Bell 360 Invictus
In October 2019, Bell Textron Inc. announced a new rotorcraft, Bell 360 Invictus, as the company’s entrant for the U.S. Army’s FARA Competitive Prototype program.
Bell’s offering has a typical helicopter configuration with a single main rotor and a Fenestron (ducted tail rotor). Invictus’ rotor system design is based on the rotor system of Bell 525 Relentless helicopter, which has been tested and proven at speeds in excess of 200 Knots True Air Speed (KTAS). The 360 Invictus has wings which will reduce rotor lift demand in forward flight, enabling high-speed maneuverability.
The helicopter’s main engine will be a single General Electric T901 turboshaft engine, with supplemental power from a Pratt & Whitney PW207D1 turboshaft engine.
Bell has announced a teaming agreement with Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (UTC), for the FARA competitive prototype program. As the mission systems integrator, Collins Aerospace will deliver a new generation of avionics hardware and software featuring cyber-hardened and digital backbone solutions to the prototype.
According to the company, the Bell 360 Invictus meets or exceeds all requirements as laid out under the FARA contract.
Sikorsky RAIDER X
Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin company, is offering the RAIDER X next-generation light attack/reconnaissance helicopter concept for the program. The helicopter was unveiled on Oct. 14, 2019.
The RAIDER X concept is an agile, lethal and survivable compound coaxial helicopter design based on Sikorsky’s X2 experimental high-speed compound helicopter.
The helicopter is a scaled-up version of the Sikorsky S-97 Raider helicopter, which was originally developed for the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program, and is also similar in configuration to the Sikorsky–Boeing SB>1 Defiant, developed jointly with Boeing. Boeing and Sikorsky are offering the larger SB-1 Defiant helicopter for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program to replace UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.
The S-97 features next-generation technologies that are expected to meet or exceed the Army’s FARA requirements. The coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and pusher propeller provide cruise speeds up to 220 knots (253 mph), significantly more than the speed of conventional helicopters. The clutched rear propeller can boost speed or shut off in hover. The Raider also exhibits enhanced maneuverability, significantly improved high/hot hover performance, and greater range and endurance.
The helicopter is powered by a single GE Aviation YT706 turboshaft engine, a 2,600 shaft-horsepower variant of the T700 engine hat includes a FADEC (full authority digital engine control).
The three other contenders which were not selected for the prototype phase are:
• Boeing’s FARA offering – Single main rotor with a pusher propeller and a conventional tail rotor; tandem-seat cockpit.
• Karem AR40 – Active-rotor, winged, compound helicopter design with a three-blade rigid main rotor and a swiveling tail rotor; side-by-side cockpit.
• AVX /L3 Compound Coaxial Helicopter (CCH) design – Compound coaxial helicopter with two ducted fans providing forward and reverse thrust, and wings to provide lift in forward flight; side-by-side cockpit.