Bell announced October 2, 2019 that a new concept rotorcraft, the Bell 360 Invictus, will be the company’s entrant for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) Competitive Prototype program. Bell stated in a press release today that the Bell 360 Invictus will combine “proven low-risk technologies with advanced processes to deliver soldiers an affordable, agile and lethal solution to win on the modern battlefield.” The company goes on to state that the Bell 360 Invictus will meet or exceed all requirements as laid out under the FARA contract.”
“The Bell 360 will deliver advanced battlefield situational awareness, as well as lethal options, in support of the maneuver force at an affordable cost” said Vince Tobin, executive vice president of Military Business at Bell. “The multi-domain fight will be complex, and our team is delivering a highly capable, low-risk solution to confidently meet operational requirements with a sustainable fleet.”
The Bell 360 Invictus bares striking resemblance to the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche that spent decades in development and $7 billion in funding before development was ultimately cancelled in 2004 after production of only two flying prototypes.
Bell commented that the 360 Invictus’ design includes a rotor system design based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system that the company states has been tested and proven at speeds in excess of 200 Knots True Air Speed (KTAS).
Bell released a list of the proposed functions of the 360 Invictus in todays press release that include:
Lift-sharing wing to reduce rotor lift demand in forward flight, enabling high-speed maneuverability
Supplemental Power Unit increases performance during high power demands
Robust articulated main rotor with high flapping capability enabling high speed flight
Fly-by-wire flight control system—synthesizes technologies, reduces pilot workload and provides a path to autonomous flight
Speed: >185 KTAS
Combat radius: 135nm with >90 minutes of time on station
Achieves 4k/95F Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE)
Armed with a 20 mm cannon, integrated munitions launcher with ability to integrate air-launched effects, and future weapons, as well as current inventory of munitions
Provisioned for enhanced situational awareness and sensor technologies
Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) enabled by a Digital Backbone from Collins Aerospace
Robust design integrating lifecycle supportability processes early to ensure high OPTEMPO availability in multi-domain operations
Design-as-built manufacturing model and digital thread enabled tools to enhance affordability, reliability, and training throughout the lifecycle of the aircraft
The U.S Army’s FARA program awarded development contracts to Bell, Boeing, Karem, Sikorsky, and a partnership of AVX and L-3. Each manufacturer has been challenged to develop an aircraft that includes a specific set of operational requirements specified in the RFP that include a 20 mm gun, a specific missile launcher, and the GE T901 Improved Turbine Engine. The aim of the FARA project is to design an attack helicopter capable of surviving current Russian and Chinese advanced air defenses with speed capability minimum of 205 knots (235 mph) with a maximum rotor diameter of 40 feet.
Sikorsky, one of the contenders of the FARA competition, gambled early on the FARA contract, investing substantial development capital on the development of the S-97 raider and later, the SB-1 Defiant that has capitalized on what has been learned by Sikorsky in the early development of the X-2 test bed and the S-97 raider, which both broke speed records in forward flight during testing.