The US Army has down-selected Bell’s 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s Raider X for the second phase of its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) competition programme.
On March 25, the Army announced it had selected the Invictus and the Raider X out of five potential candidates. The others comprised of AVX Aircraft’s Compound Coaxial Helicopter (CCH), Boeing’s FARA concept and Karem Aircraft’s AR40.
Phase two of the programme will see Bell and Sikorsky test airworthy prototypes ahead of a fly-off competition, which is scheduled to begin in 2024. One of them will make it as the Army’s next-generation light attack/reconnaissance helicopter, which is set to be first fielded in 2028.
As part of the selection, Bell is designing, manufacturing, and testing the Bell 360 Invictus, a prototype rotorcraft designed to provide improved lethality, survivability, and extended reach for Army Aviation. This selection follows almost a full year of design and risk-reduction work by the Bell team as part of the initial contract phase.
The FARA competition seeks to design, produce and test a prototype that will fill the capability gap caused by the retirement of the army’s Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior light attack/reconnaissance helicopter fleet in 2017 – a gap which is currently being covered by army Boeing AH-64D/E attack helicopters.
As part of the U.S. government’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) family of programs, the FARA competition seeks to test and acquire a next-generation attack reconnaissance aircraft to fill a critical capability gap identified by the Army on a rapid schedule.
The Bell 360 addresses the requirements with a design optimized to achieve the performance, connectivity, sustainability, and reliability for soldiers to fight and operate in multi-domain operations.
Bell is partnered with industry leader Collins Aerospace to integrate a new generation of avionics hardware and software featuring cyber-hardened and digital backbone solutions to provide MOSA compliance in accordance with US Army FARA objectives.
Bell is using a digital design-as-built process. The team is able to connect and collaborate in a real-time digital environment to ensure alignment among all trades to facilitate smoother manufacturing, improve sustainability characteristics, and mitigate schedule risks. This process has been used and refined on Bell commercial projects, as well as during the recent U.S. Army Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program that produced the Bell V-280 Valor.
Sikorsky unveiled its FARA-CP candidate at the AUSA Annual Conference in 2019. The company claims its Raider X platform will be “game-changing” in its warfighting capabilities through the integration of technology gained through the development, testing and evaluation of its X2 experimental high-speed compound helicopter.
The Raider X shares many similarities with the X2, including a coaxial rigid main rotor and smooth, blended fuselage with retractable undercarriage. According to Sikorsky, the X2 technology also enhances level acceleration, braking and off-axis hover capabilities, while reducing platform vibration and its overall weight. The employment of Sikorsky’s Advancing Blade Concept uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions to mitigate loss of lift as it speeds up, which is an issue with traditional helicopters.