Bell has revealed its offering for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) Competitive Prototype program.
Named the Bell 360 Invictus, the futuristic looking concept loosely resembles the low-observable Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter which was cancelled in 2004 after a protracted and troubled development, but is actually built around the running gear, dynamic components and flight control system of Bell’s new 525 Relentless civil helicopter program.
Bell says the 360 “combines low-risk technologies with advanced processes to deliver soldiers an affordable, agile and lethal solution to win on the modern battlefield”, and that it “meets or exceeds all requirements as laid out under the FARA contract.”
The machine will have a top speed exceeding 185 knots, and its >135nm combat radius and manoeuvrability is enhanced by the addition of a lift-sharing wing.
“The Bell 360 will deliver advanced battlefield situational awareness, as well as lethal options, in support of the manoeuvre force at an affordable cost” Bell’s executive vice president of Military Business, Vince Tobin said in a statement. “The multi-domain fight will be complex, and our team is delivering a highly capable, low-risk solution to confidently meet operational requirements with a sustainable fleet.”
Bell’s vice president of Advanced Vertical Lift Systems, Keith Flail added, “Bell is committed to providing the U.S. Army with the most affordable, most sustainable, least complex, and lowest risk solution among the potential FARA configurations, while meeting all requirements. 360 Invictus is an exciting opportunity for us to continue our support of Army modernization. This is the next solution to ensure soldiers have the best equipment available for the multi-domain fight.”
The FARA is a spinoff of the US Army’s larger Future Vertical Lift (FVL program, and is designed to replace the armed scout capability vacated by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. There have been several failed efforts to replace the OH-58D in the past, including the RAH-66, and the ARH-70 programs.
In April this year the US Army selected five teams to submit detailed designs for FARA – AVX and L3 with a coaxial and pusher prop hybrid design; a team of Karem, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman with a tiltrotor design; Sikorsky with a development of its S-97 Raider coaxial prototype; Boeing with as-yet unrevealed design reportedly based on its AH-64E Apache with a pusher tail rotor; and Bell.
Anecdotally, there is considerably military and industry interest in Australia in the US Army’s FARA and wider FVL programs as Australia seeks to further align its capabilities with those of the US when it comes time to acquire new battlefield and armed reconnaissance helicopters in the 2030s.