Army Selects First Round FARA Competitors

 - April 24, 2019, 1:47 PM
AVX has partnered with L3 Technologies to offer its coaxial rotor/ducted fan compound helicopter design, which was revealed on April 15. (photo: AVX Aircraft Company)

The U.S. Army demonstrated the urgency it is attaching to the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, announcing its initial development industry partners yesterday, nearly two months ahead of schedule. The five industry partners are AVX Aircraft (Fort Worth Texas) partnered with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems (Waco, Texas); Bell Helicopter Textron (Fort Worth, Texas); The Boeing Company (Mesa, Arizona); Karem Aircraft (Lake Forest, California) and Sikorsky (Stratford, Connecticut). Each partner will receive approximately $15 million in FY2019 and FY2020. 

"In just over a one-year period, the Army moved from the FARA 'kick-off' to now awarding prototype contracts—a process that traditionally takes three to five years to achieve,” said the head of the Army’s Futures Command, Gen. John M. Murray. Murray said fast-tracking FARA is the result of the combined efforts of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, Army Contracting Command, and the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team. The Futures Command is leading the Army’s modernization efforts. 

"This is not procurement as usual. The OTA [other transaction authority] capability gives us flexibility, allowing us to be more responsive to the timelines in order to meet specific requirements," said Joseph Giunta, executive director for U.S. Army Contracting Command-Redstone. 

The Army plans to select two finalists from the five to build prototype aircraft early next year, to have the two prototypes flying by 2023, and to have the winning design in production no later than 2028. Each finalist would receive approximately $735 million between FY2020 and FY2023. 

Some details of the design proposals already have been revealed by some FARA competitors. Sikorsky has long maintained that its FARA entry would be based on the S-97 Raider demonstration compound helicopter technology and details for both the AVX/L-3 and Bell entries were revealed earlier this month. The AVX/L-3 concept uses a coaxial main rotor system with aft ducted thrusters, while Bell parent company Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said that Bell’s entry would be based on a downsized version of its super-medium twin Model 525, currently completing flight testing. Karem has done extensive work on a variable speed tiltrotor design. Boeing is wind-tunnel testing a 30 percent scale AH-64 Apache with an aft propulsor added.