The Russian invasion of Ukraine claimed ‘two victims’ thousands of miles from the conflict, the Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X helicopters.
On Thursday, February 8, the US Army announced the end of the FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) program, which would give rise to a new scout and reconnaissance helicopter, a late replacement for the now deactivated Bell OH-58 Kiowa.
Bell was competing for the contract with the Invictus, in a conventionally configured helicopter with tandem seats, and Sikorsky with the Raider X and coaxial rotor and pusher propeller technology.
The Lockheed Martin subsidiary is likely to regret the decision even more as it had lost another Army competition, the FLRAA, in which Bell was chosen with the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor.
“We are learning from the battlefield – especially in Ukraine – that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” said the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Randy George.
Priority for unmanned systems
The Army, however, is expected to maintain the program through 2024 and fly the two helicopter prototypes that are already ready. They would start the flight campaign before deciding on the winner of the competition.
“Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching, and more inexpensive than ever before,” explained the general.
Among the programs that will be prioritized from now on are the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, Launched Effects and several small commercial unmanned aircraft systems.
The change is in line with what was witnessed during the war in Ukraine, in which small drones played a key role in gaining an advantage on the battlefield.
At the same time, armored attack helicopters suffered heavy losses, especially on the Russian side.
More Blackhawks and Chinooks
In addition to the end of the FARA program, the Army will also end production of the UH-60V version of the Blackhawk and postpone production of the Improved Turbine Engine (ITEP) so that it can be integrated into the current UH-60 and AH-64.
Sikorsky, on the other hand, stands to benefit from new multi-year contracts for the UH-60M Blackhawk in addition to upgrades to the helicopter fleet.
Boeing, in turn, will have the production of the Chinook CH-47F Block II authorized, ending a period of uncertainty in the program.
The V-280 Valor is expected to enter into operation in the early 2030s.