Helicopters

Bell 360, Raider X to compete head-to-head for US Army’s FARA Program

FARA is aimed to fill a critical capability gap currently being filled by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow unmanned aircraft after the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.

The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program office has downselected Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin-owned company) Raider X and Bell 360 Invictus for the next prototype stage, the US Army announced on Mar. 25, 2020.

As told by Defense News, the US Army is planning to procure both a FARA and Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will slowly replace the current fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks utility helicopters and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. The service plans to initially field both in the 2030s.

FARA is aimed to fill a critical capability gap currently being filled by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow unmanned aircraft after the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.

As we have previously reported, Lockheed unveiled its design — Raider X — at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in October 2019. The company’s design uses its Raider X2 coaxial technology with a focus on how it will perform “at the X.”

‘Through our mature S-97 Raider technology demonstrator, we continue to optimize our FARA solution, which will provide the Army with an integrated weapon system that combines speed, range, maneuverability, survivability and operational flexibility. This approach is driving down risk and will result in an aircraft solution that is capable of executing the Army’s joint all-domain operations. With tremendous growth of potential, Raider X will give the maneuver commander and Army aviators the vertical lift dominance required to defeat ever-evolving threats for decades to come,’ Andy Adams, Vice President, Sikorsky Future Vertical Lift said in a company statement.

Bell revealed its design — the Bell 360 Invictus — which is based on 525 technology. But its design features several key differences, including its size in order to adhere to the Army requirement of 40-foot in diameter rotor blades.

The design includes a single main rotor helicopter in a four-blade configuration, a low-drag tandem cockpit fuselage and transportability in a C-17.

“Bell is proud to continue work on the Bell 360 Invictus as part of the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototype competition,” Keith Flail, Bell’s vice president of advanced vertical lift systems, told Defense News on March 25.

Both companies are expected to flight test their aircraft starting from the last quarter of 2022.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and Bell

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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