Helicopter maker Bell has released images of its near-finished prototype of the 360 Invictus, the company’s proposed solution to the US Army’s FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) requirement.
Through multiple images of the 360 Invictus prototype released on July 12 carrying a full load of weapons, the company confirmed that production of the platform is now nearly 90% complete and that activities including progress on the Increment 1 reconnaissance helicopter project / proposed attack, continue.
The prototype was unveiled days before the Farnborough International Airshow. Final engine work remains to be done, with the start of the prototype ground and flight test campaigns on schedule.
Team Invictus is steadily progressing with the Bell 360 Invictus build. With over 90% complete, the #Bell360 is getting closer to transforming the attack and reconnaissance mission. #FVL #ArmyModernization #WILL MAKE pic.twitter.com/98ED67XsZW
— Bell (@BellFlight) July 12, 2022
The 360 Invictus will use GE Aviation’s T901 turboshaft engine, which is currently being developed under the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), according to key.aero, and will be used extensively throughout the service. , employed by several types already operational such as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk family of utility helicopters and the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters, as well as the selected FARA solution.
Based on technology developed for Bell’s 525 Relentless medium-sized civil utility helicopter, the 360 Invictus is a light single-rotor reconnaissance/attack helicopter that incorporates an elegant fuselage design combined with a dual-seat cockpit configuration and a fly-by-wire flight control. The platform’s primary development goals focused on maintaining the platform’s accessibility, sustainability, upgradeability, and adaptability, while meeting and exceeding the requirements of the US Army’s FARA program.
Bell’s 360 Invictus will have a payload capacity of up to 1,400 pounds and will feature a forward-facing 20mm rotary cannon under the nose and two internal weapons bays. Munitions can also be equipped externally, via underwing hardpoints that are mounted on the aircraft’s lift-sharing wings.
The US Army initially received five forward-looking solutions to meet FARA requirements (which fall within the service’s broader Future Vertical Lift portfolio) in the competitive prototype phase of the program. That was reduced to just two candidates in March 2020, when the US Army revealed that Sikorsky’s Bell 360 Invictus and Raider X offerings would be developed into flight prototypes, before entering a competition that is scheduled to begin in 2020. November.
Depending on the results of this next phase of flight competition, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2023, Bell or Sikorsky will be contracted to supply the successor to the US Army’s now-retired fleet of Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. The service aims to begin putting its desired platform operational in 2028. Bell released an image of the first Invictus prototype under construction on August 11, 2021, and the type is expected to complete its maiden flight later this year.
The #Bell360 Invictus provides a low-risk path to fulfill the @USArmy‘s requirements for #WILL MAKEproviding security and battlefield situational awareness until the fight is finished.#ArmyModernization #FVL pic.twitter.com/UTlyLstWWi
— Bell (@BellFlight) July 8, 2022
The performance of helicopters on both sides of the Ukraine conflict has raised questions about the future of the FARA program, as well as other Army helicopter modernization efforts under the umbrella of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative. Russian and Ukrainian helicopter fleets suffered significant losses, especially at the hands of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). At the same time, when the Army first publicly announced the FARA program, the service said that the winning design would need to have a defensive suite to protect it from modern air defense threats and the capabilities needed to disrupt them.