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The US Army seeks a replacement for the Kiowa and some Apache helicopters missions. Two competitors were chosen to develop test models of an attack/reconnaissance helicopter to replace the old aircraft.
The two vendors that will build and test designs for the next phase of the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) are Bell Textron with its 360 Invictus and Sikorsky with its Raider X.
FARA is split into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into a final production phase.
According to defenseone.com, the Invictus concept looks like something out of a videogame, with sleek aerodynamic lines and a casing for the rear rotor. Bell says it should reach speeds of 200 knots while bearing a 20mm cannon and an integrated missile launcher. While the final design may differ slightly from the images Bell has released publicly, the design tilts away from the innovation that Bell is best known for: rotors that swivel to lift an aircraft off the ground, then tilt to provide forward thrust, the kind that power the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
The Sikorsky Raider X, also with a reported top speed of 200 knots, has a coaxial rotor system, two top propellers that spin in opposite directions to improve speed and stability. Sikorsky is already flying a version of the helicopter, the S-97 Raider, whereas the Invictus is currently in concept stage.
“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems,” said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, according to verticalmag.com. “It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality.”
The final decision is expected in FY 2024.