US-based helicopter manufacturing giant, Bell, has released images of its 360 Invictus prototype – the firm’s proposed solution for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) requirement – adding that the platform is nearly complete.
Bell released several images of its 360 Invictus prototype on July 12, with the firm confirming that production of the platform is now ~90% complete and that activities including progress on the proposed reconnaissance/attack helicopter’s Increment 1 design continues. Key.Aero can confirm that the remaining work is related to the type’s engine and that the start of the prototype’s respective ground and flight test campaigns currently remain on schedule.
The powerplant in question is GE Aviation’s T901 turboshaft engine, which is currently being developed under the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) and will be widely used across the service, employed by several already operational types – 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-lift civil utility helicopter, the 360 Invictus is a single-rotor light reconnaissance/attack helicopter that incorporates a sleek, blended-fuselage design with a tandem-seat cockpit configuration and a fly-by-wire flight control system. The core development aims of the have focused on maintaining the platform’s affordability, sustainability, upgradeability and adaptability, while meeting and exceeding the US Army’s FARA programme requirements.
The US Army was initially offered five prospective solutions to fulfil its FARA requirements (which fall under the service’s wider Future Vertical Lift portfolio) under the competitive prototype (CP) phase of the programme. This was whittled down to just two contenders in March 2020, when the US Army revealed that the Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s Raider X offerings would be developed into flying prototypes, before participating in a fly-off competition that is scheduled to begin this November.
Depending on the results of this upcoming competitive fly-off – which is slated for completion in late 2023 – either Bell or Sikorsky will be contracted to provide the successor for the US Army’s already retired fleet of Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. The service aims to start fielding its desired platform operationally from 2028. Bell released an image of the first Invictus prototype under construction on August 11, 2021, and the type is expected to complete its first flight later this year.