Military Review

"Invincible" versus "Raider". FARA: U.S. Army program


The expected appearance of the Bell 360 Invictus helicopter

Since 2018, on the initiative of the US Army, the FARA program (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, "Advanced reconnaissance and strike aircraft") has been carried out. In 2019, work began on advance projects, at this stage five companies participated in the program. In March 2020, the Army selected two finalists. They are Bell Textron with the Bell 360 Invictus project and Sikorsky (Lockheed Martin) with the Raider X helicopter.

"Invincible" by Bell

Work on Bell 360 started in 2018, and in April 2019, the development company received a contract for the development of a preliminary project worth 15 million dollars.The first materials on the Bell 360 project were presented to the public in October last year. A full-size layout demonstration was expected soon. A few months ago the Bell Textron project received customer approval and moved to a new stage.

In early June, Bell Textron announced the reorganization of work on a promising helicopter. Nine organizations, including Bell, are involved in the design of the machine and individual systems, and now they are officially united to form Team Invictus. Bell remains the lead developer on this team. General Electric is responsible for the engines, ITT-Enidine and Parker Lord were involved in the creation of the carrier system, and Mecaer Aviation is involved in the development of the airframe. Avionics and other systems will be supplied by Astronics Corp., Collins Aerospace, L3Harris and MOOG Inc. TRU Simulation + Training is developing a training complex.

It is argued that the formation of such a "team" will simplify the design of both individual units and the helicopter as a whole. Now she is engaged in a detailed study of the project, and it is too early to talk about the real effectiveness of this approach to cooperation.

According to the normal scheme

In the proposed form, the Bell 360 is a reconnaissance and attack helicopter of a normal configuration with a main and tail rotor. Some of the tactical and technical characteristics have not yet been disclosed, while others are actively used to advertise and promote the project. It is argued that Invictus is able to become a worthy addition or even a replacement for the existing AH-64, as required by the conditions of the FARA program.

The helicopter glider has a traditional layout. Its outer contours are formed taking into account the reduction in visibility. In particular, the rotor hub is completely covered by casings. Internal payload bays are provided to hide weapon from direct radiation.

The carrier system of the helicopter is based on the Bell 525 units, but it is being substantially reworked. The number of blades has been reduced to four, and their suspension has been changed. In particular, a new active vibration damping system is being introduced. Such measures are aimed at keeping the propeller working in all flight modes, including high speed. The main rotor is complemented by a wing and a large area stabilizer. The tail rotor is placed in the annular channel and also receives vibration control.

Under the terms of the program, the helicopter will receive one GE T901 ITEP turboshaft engine with a capacity of at least 3000 hp. The use of an auxiliary power unit is envisaged. Bell and MOOG are collaborating on a new fly-by-wire control system. Other companies are designing a developed complex of sighting and navigation equipment to work in all expected conditions. The crew includes two people with tandem accommodation.

Bell 360 will receive a built-in artillery mount with a 20mm automatic cannon. Combat load - 1400 pounds (635 kg). Depending on the specifics of the mission, the helicopter will be able to carry weapons under the wing or on launchers extended from the fuselage. In advertising images, Invictus carries up to four AGM-114 missiles on each wing and a pair on retractable installations - a total of 12 units.

The dimensions and weight of the car are not specified. The maximum speed will exceed 180 knots (333 km / h). Combat radius - 135 miles (approx. 220 km) with the ability to work 90 minutes at a maximum distance. The high performance and modernization potential provided by the open architecture and other characteristic features are declared.

"Raider" from the family

In April 2019, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, was awarded the 15 millionth advance project contract. She presented the first materials on the Raider X helicopter in October. Later, the US Army received the necessary documents and was able to compare the project with other developments. At the end of March, "Raider" was named the winner of the first stage of the FARA program and transferred to the full development stage.

General view of the Sikorsky Raider X helicopter

In the Raider X project, Sikorsky again decided to use the existing developments on the topic of high-speed helicopters with a pine carrier system and a separate pusher propeller. The concept, called X2 Technology, has been tested on several prototype helicopters and is now being offered in new projects with an eye to real use.

Raider X is not an independent development of Sikorsky. So, the design and assembly of the fuselage was entrusted to Swift Engineering, and other companies are responsible for the supply of electronics. However, unlike a competitor, Lockheed Martin / Sikorsky consider the Raider X project their own and do not intend to organize a "team." Traditional approaches to collaborative work were considered quite acceptable.

X2 technology

Sikorsky Raider X is built in an unusual way. The helicopter has a streamlined fuselage with a large area stabilizer designed to create additional lift. The carrier system includes two coaxial propellers and a hub with fairings. According to the experience of previous projects, the rotors are rigid, which provides the necessary performance in all modes. Translational motion, incl. at high speeds, provided by a tail propeller.

The Raider's powerplant includes one GE T901 ITEP engine. The gearbox provides power distribution between the three screws. An open architecture of onboard equipment is proposed, which simplifies the replacement of individual units. In particular, a fairly simple and quick change of the sighting and navigation complex for specific tasks is possible. The crew will include two people with side-by-side seating, which is not typical for American combat helicopters.

"Invincible" versus "Raider". FARA: U.S. Army program

Experienced S-97 helicopter - another prototype on the X2 platform, created as part of another program

Raider X will receive built-in and pendant weapons. Under the nose of the fuselage is a mobile unit with a 20 mm automatic cannon. Internal cargo compartments are provided on the sides of the machine. The weapon is proposed to be suspended on a movable compartment cover. In the demo images, the helicopter carries several types of guided weapons at the same time. Payload mass is not specified.

With a maximum take-off weight of 6400 kg, the promising Raider will be able to reach speeds of up to 250 knots (460 km / h). Other flight characteristics were not reported. Since Raider X is a development option for an existing platform, we can talk about high potential and outstanding performance.

Waiting for prototypes

In late March, the US Army completed a comparison of the five submitted proposals and selected two of them for further development. With orders in hand, Bell Textron and Sikorsky got down to work. Now their task is to develop a technical project. Upon completion of this stage, the construction of two different types of prototypes will begin.

The first flight of the two helicopters is scheduled for the last months of 2022. Factory and comparative tests may take a long time, and the Pentagon is not yet ready to name a specific timeline for their completion. It is planned to complete the comparison process, choose the best helicopter and start mass production no later than 2028. Thus, the initial operational readiness of the first squadrons will be achieved only by the early thirties.

What the results of future tests will be is unknown. There is no clear favorite at the moment; both candidate projects have advantages that can influence the decision of the army. In addition, the situation is complicated by the fact that the program is still at the design stage. Both projects may still face some kind of difficulties that can lead to unintended consequences for the entire program.

In view of the rather high requirements of the customer, both projects within the FARA framework are distinguished by a certain complexity, which can lead to negative consequences. However, the participating companies have enough time to develop and fine-tune the experimental helicopters. Accordingly, the US Army does not have to worry for now and can expect the appearance of the desired helicopter. However, according to the results of the current program, real equipment will go to the troops only at the end of the decade.
Photos used:
Bell Textron, Sikorsky / Lockheed Martin
21 comment
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  1. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 30 July 2020 07: 43
    Closer and closer to the realization in life of futuristic clouds, which were shown by Cameron in his fantasy "Avatar" ...
    1. Grazdanin
      Grazdanin 30 July 2020 14: 21
      Type this mean?
  2. Monar
    Monar 30 July 2020 09: 07
    As I saw Bell 360 Invictus immediately remembered. I collected its "prototype" more than 20 years ago. winked

    One thing is confusing. Two new ones. Moreover, to replace the AN-64. And both with one engine ...
    I think the military will be very "happy".
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 30 July 2020 09: 21
      Quote: Monar
      As I saw Bell 360 Invictus immediately remembered. I collected its "prototype" more than 20 years ago.

      Uh-huh ... but about the imminent entry into service of the army of the imperialist aggressor of the new LHX helicopter, they wrote back in the late 80s.
      In the toy LHX of 1990 (from EA, which has not yet snickered), it was even possible to steer the LHX and Osprey themselves. As I remember now - XT, monochrome monitor, always screaming speaker, 5,25 "floppy disks, DOS," Commander Norton "... smile
    2. Engineer
      Engineer 30 July 2020 09: 32
      Comanche was made by Boeing and Sikorsky. It's funny that now Bell is perfecting a similar design, and Sikorsky went to a completely different steppe.
      1. Grazdanin
        Grazdanin 30 July 2020 14: 08
        Quote: Engineer
        Sikorsky went to a completely different steppe.

        They develop the concept of the Sikorsky X2, with the same technical solution they participate in the competition to replace the Black Hawk. The military can choose Sikorsky for the sake of unification.
        1. Engineer
          Engineer 30 July 2020 14: 20
          They had a lot of interesting projects. Fixed X-screw wing, for example. They were the first to make the same fenestron, at least in the USA.
          But the market seems to be losing continuously
          1. Grazdanin
            Grazdanin 30 July 2020 14: 27
            Igor Ivanovich founded a powerful company, let's see what happens. Lockhead is one of the main contractors for the military.
            1. Engineer
              Engineer 30 July 2020 14: 29
              But there have been no big successes for a very long time. I'm 90% sure that invictus will win simply because it looks more familiar.
              1. Grazdanin
                Grazdanin 30 July 2020 14: 35
                SB-1 Defiant can win this competition. Bell V-280 Valor raises too many questions. The idea to make 3 transport helicopters, reconnaissance and strike helicopters and, in the future, strike (instead of Apache) based on one helicopter looks good. Unification will reduce the cost of all projects, they love this.
                Sikorsky has much more rapid-fire, this is a very significant plus.
                1. Engineer
                  Engineer 30 July 2020 14: 43
                  Valor in this pair is a favorite as for me - the development of already adopted concepts.
                  Sikorsky needs blood from his nose to win at least one field.
                  1. Grazdanin
                    Grazdanin 30 July 2020 14: 47
                    In both projects I put on Sikorsky.
                    In this project due to the higher speed.
                    In transport, the tiltrotor scheme raises many technical questions, for Osprey it will still work, for a mass transport helicopter not very much.
                    The unification of the two projects will give even more advantages.
                    Wait and see smile
                    1. Engineer
                      Engineer 30 July 2020 14: 51
                      Let them win.
                      This is the case when I am for the notorious diversity
    3. The comment was deleted.
    4. Grazdanin
      Grazdanin 30 July 2020 13: 58
      Quote: Monar
      Moreover, to replace the AN-64.

      These helicopters are intended to replace the decommissioned OH-58 Kiowa. The Apache will not be replaced soon.
  3. Lopatov
    Lopatov 30 July 2020 09: 30
    or even a replacement for the existing AH-64, as required by the conditions of the FARA program.

    Apache is not a reconnaissance strike.
    It was a decommissioned Kiowa Warrior OH-58D

    In fact, it should be a renaissance of this kind of machine. Apparently, the Americans decided. that the "drones + Apache Guardian" bundles are not able to fully take over these functions, which was previously hoped for
  4. Operator
    Operator 30 July 2020 12: 11
    Reconnaissance / reconnaissance and attack helicopter - FSE, UAV - Foreva. African American Army Competition - Another Budget Drank.
  5. Lebed
    Lebed 30 July 2020 12: 21
    And we would develop a deck helicopter, 6-7 tons.
  6. bars1
    bars1 30 July 2020 14: 34
    ,,The weapon is proposed to be suspended on a movable compartment cover". Just like the English Buccaneer" at one time ...
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 30 July 2020 16: 00
      Quote: bars1
      ,,The weapon is proposed to be suspended on a movable compartment cover". Just like the English Buccaneer" at one time ...

      EMNIP, the RAH-66 had the same solution for "internal" armament.
  7. 5-9
    5-9 31 July 2020 14: 01
    Again with pictures, toys and prototypes, how will the Comanche end up? I used it to destroy a single GHA in the vehicle fleet while still at school.
    Why do you need a drummer of less than 10 tons, those cardboard, or a reconnaissance in the age of the UAV? The concept is not clear.
  8. Crabong
    Crabong 26 September 2020 05: 49
    Amers Che absolutely nowhere to cut the loot? Why sculpt this hunchback? There is an Apache. An attack helicopter is a specific machine, better than an Apache they will not do anything cardinal anyway.