Friday, October 5, 2018

US Army Launches Prototype Competition For Future Attack Recon Aircraft

By Dan Parsons |

The Army has officially kicked off a competition for industry to design its next armed scout aircraft, called the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA.

Details of the program were published Oct. 3 in a solicitation on the government’s contracting website. The Army lays out a four-phase competitive prototyping effort that should yield operational, experimental aircraft flying by November 2022.
The Army describes the desired platform as a “knife fighter” of future battlefield capabilities in a “small form factor … with maximized performance.”

In phase one, industry hopefuls will have nine months to develop preliminary designs and provide the Army with data and insight required for a down-select to two — maybe more based on funding available — designs that will move on to phase two, according to Army documents.

Each phase one contender will receive about $15 million between fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to complete the work. While the Government anticipates 4 to 6 participants in phase 1, the decision is contingent on the technical merit of the proposed approaches, the solicitation says.

The second phase is broken in two, with the designs selected moving into detail design and build with a final design and risk review scheduled for November 2020.

“Upon assessment of technical progress and risk, the Government will make the determination to approve continue or terminate the effort,” the solicitation reads.

Teams will then have about two years to build prototype aircraft, including subsystem testing with an anticipated first flight in November 2022.

In the second half of phase two, operational prototypes will be delivered to the Army for performance testing and evaluation of maneuverability. In phase three, the Army will evaluate if the Performers have successfully completed the competitive prototype project and may select a design for entry into a subsequent full-system integration, qualification and production phase.

The two Industry Performers selected for phase two in fiscal 2020 will receive a fixed funding level of approximately $735 million between through fiscal 2023.

Two rotorcraft industry giants already are stalking the FARA award. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider has been flying a test regime for several years and recently exceeded 200 knots in forward flight. Raider uses coaxial rigid rotors for lift and an aft pusher propulsor for forward thrust. Sikorsky, now owned by Lockheed Martin, has formally announced Raider as a contender for FARA.

Sikorsky is teamed with Boeing in developing the SB-1 Defiant to satisfy another Army requirement for a long-range assault aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. The first operational prototype is nearing completion and is scheduled for first flight by the end of the year.

Bell, which has put more than 60 hours on its prototype V-280 Valor advanced tiltrotor, also will compete. CEO Mitch Snyder on Oct. 2 said the company has already worked up a prototype design, but is not ready to make it public.


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