Bell Textron Inc, on Wednesday, announced a new rotorcraft “Bell 360 Invictus” as the company’s entrant for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) Competitive Prototype program.
FARA is part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative, a program to put a new generation of helicopters into service by 2030. The other key part of the FVL is the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), designed to primarily replace the aging UH-60 Black Hawk, built by Sikorsky, and AH-64 Apache, built by Boeing. The Army awarded $3.9 billion worth contracts to the firms this April to develop the FARA. The contractors expect to have a competitive fly-off with their competing designs in 2023.
In September 2019, the companies were reportedly asked to incorporate special forces support roles performed by the MH-6 Little Bird into their designs.
Bell will now have to have to clear several competing designs from AVX Aircraft Co, Boeing, Sikorsky and Karem Aircraft before winning the big contract.
The Bell FARA helicopter meets or exceeds all requirements as laid out under the FARA contract, the company said.
The Bell 360 Invictus’ design is based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system which has been tested at speeds in excess of 200 Knots True Air Speed (KTAS). The attack helicopter has a sleek, shark-like body lifted by a single rotor with four short, 40-foot blades.
According to the company, some of the key features of the aircraft include speed of over 185 KTAS, range of 135 nautical miles, supplemental power unit, lift-sharing wing to reduce rotor lift demand in forward flight enabling high-speed maneuverability, Fly-by-wire flight control system, combat radius of 135nm with >90 minutes of time on station, and more.
The 360 Invictus gunship carries a 20-millimeter cannon and an integrated munitions launcher, because the helicopter stores its weaponry in an internal weapons bay instead of on pylons mounted on the wings, as has been typical for military helicopters. The chopper can carry Hellfire missiles and a variety of other rocketry weapons, and is designed to be easily adaptable to newer munitions that may be invented.