Previously known only from concept illustrations, the Bell 360 Invictus scout and reconnaissance helicopter was presented near completion. The US manufacturer released the first images of the prototype of the aircraft, which competes in the US Army’s FARA (Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft) program.
On Twitter, Bell Helicopters reported that it is “steadily progressing” in the construction of the Invictus prototype, whose assembly is 90% complete.
The helicopter’s first flight is expected to take place by the end of this year, when it will participate in the initial tests of the FARA program against Sikorsky’s competitor, Raider X.
While the Invictus doesn’t take off for the first time, Bell has showcased some of the capabilities of the new helicopter. In the newly released images, the aircraft is shown armed with a 20mm cannon and eight air-to-surface missiles, including four AGM-179 JAGMs, one of the latest in the US arsenal.
The images also show the Invictus’ retractable weapons bay, a feature that improves the aircraft’s aerodynamic performance and reduces its radar signature. Another highlight is the front tower with a FLIR infrared sensor.
According to the manufacturer, the Invictus is designed to fly at a cruising speed of 330 km/h and a combat radius of 250 km. The escort helicopter also features 100% fly-by-wire controls and wings that provide lift equivalent to about 50% of the helicopter’s weight at moderate and high speeds.
The FARA program seeks a replacement for the Bell OH-58 Kiowa light attack and reconnaissance helicopters, a military version of the famous Bell 206 that was retired by the US Army in 2018. The Pentagon forecast is that the 306 Invictus or Raider X will enter in service in 2028.