US Army cancels FARA and UH-60V in revamp of aviation acquisition, int…
The Bell 360 Invictus prototype for the US Army's FARA competition is substantially complete, pending first flight in late 2024. (Bell Flight)
The US Army cancelled the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme, the service announced on 8 February. The FARA contest was intended to provide the army with an armed scout helicopter, taking on a role left unfilled following the 2020 retirement of the Bell OH-58C.
“We are learning from the battlefield – especially in Ukraine – that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” US Army Chief of Staff General Randy George said in a statement. “Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching, and more inexpensive than ever before.”
“I am confident the army can deliver for the joint force, both in the priority theatre and around the globe, by accelerating innovation, procurement, and fielding of modern unmanned aircraft systems, including the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS), launched eEffects, and commercial small unmanned aircraft systems,” Gen George added.
Bell Helicopters and Sikorsky, the two remaining FARA competitors following a 2020 down-select, had substantially completed prototype helicopters in anticipation of a fly-off. Both competitors were in the process of integrating and testing the General Electric T901 Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine, anticipating first flights in late 2024. Bell's 360 Invictus prototype is a conventional helicopter, while Sikorsky's Raider X is a compound helicopter equipped with two counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher assembly in the rear. Raider X is based on the experimental X2.
Work on the helicopters is set to continue until the end of fiscal year (FY) 2024 in June, following which the future of the prototypes and technologies involved is uncertain.