NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An Army analysis of alternatives for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is not expected to significantly change the program, according to the service’s acquisition chief.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land subcommittee, said during a recent hearing he was alarmed the Army was just beginning an AOA — as the service has already spent $2 billion on the program, which is in the prototyping phase.
Doug Bush told him the analysis is “advisory.”
“I’m confident ... the AOA, the way it’s structured, is fair,” he added. “It is very thorough, examining many alternatives. I think that’s good.”
Bush said the late timing of the AOA is because the Army had not previously decided on an acquisition pathway. The service weighed whether to enter the program at the engineering and manufacturing development stage or take a more traditional approach and go through a technology development phase, according to Bush.
“We decided the more responsible approach would be to go to a traditional milestone B [decision], which requires the AOA,” he said, referring to the finding that a program can enter the EMD phase.
“We’ll know more later this year,” Bush added. “We will be in a good place to know exactly where things are going to land in terms of the program schedule.”
The FARA competitive prototyping program is delayed as both competitors — Textron’s Bell and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky — wait for the Army’s next-generation Improved Turbine Engine Program engine to be installed in already built prototypes.
The plan was to fly at the beginning of fiscal 2023; now, the aircraft are not expected to fly until the fourth quarter of FY24.
General Electric Aerospace, the engine’s developer, said it has resolved the problems that delayed the engine’s delivery and the first two engines will be delivered to FARA competitors by fall 2023.
While the Army waits for the engine, it is developing the weapons systems and a critical modular open-system architecture for the aircraft, Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift development, told Defense News in a recent interview.
“This is our effort to claw back schedule and claw back scope,” he said.
The Army isn’t slated to reach the technology maturation phase of the program until the first quarter of FY26, according to FY24 budget documents.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.