Boeing unveils proposed design for U.S. Army Armed Reconnaissance competition

Boeing has unveiled its offering for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) prototype competition, the last of five competitors to do so.

The design, which is unnamed but simply referred to as the “Boeing FARA”, is a clean-sheet helicopter utilising a three-rotor system; a six-bladed, hingeless main rotor, a conventional four-bladed tail rotor; and a rear propeller.

Shane Openshaw, Boeing FARA program manager, was reported as saying that the purpose-built main rotor gives the helicopter the required agility, the tail rotor would deliver low-speed manoeuvrability of a typical helicopter while the propeller would provide the speed and manoeuvrability required by the U.S. Army’s FARA requirements, which (among others) requires the selected platform to be able of attaining a cruise speed of no less than 180 knots at 4,000 feet in temperatures of 35 °C.

“We’re offering more than a helicopter – we’re offering an affordable and fully integrated system for the Army, the mission and the future. We’ve blended innovation, ingenuity and proven rotorcraft experience with extensive testing and advanced analysis to offer a very compelling solution,” said Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Phantom Works in a Boeing news release.

The Boeing release added that the “fly-by-wire design leverages more than 65 years of rotorcraft experience, proven advanced and additive manufacturing technology, and product commonality driving down risk and costs. The system will provide seamless capability within the Army ecosystem to include Long-Range Precision Fires and air-launched effects.”

The FARA program is seeking a solution to fill a capability gap following the retirement of the Bell-manufactured OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter in the U.S. Army. That gap is currently filled by the Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopter alongside the AAI RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aircraft.

Boeing is up against competitors Bell; a team made up of Karem Aircraft, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon team; an AVX-L3 team; and Sikorsky for the FARA program. Two of the competitors will be chosen to build a flying prototype, with selection expected at the end of this month with prototypes expected to be flying by 2023 and a production decision targeted for 2028.

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