WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky is already building its prototype for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft competition ahead of the service actually choosing companies to build prototypes.
While the Army will select two companies to proceed next month, Lockheed is already using funding as part of its contract to build its Raider X coaxial helicopter, Tim Malia, Sikorsky’s FARA director, told a group of reporters Feb. 19 at the company’s flight test facility.
The Army awarded full-scope contracts to the five teams selected to design FARA; those deals included funding to build aircraft. But when the Army chooses which two teams will move forward, that funding spigot essentially turns off for those that aren’t picked.
When asked what happens with Raider X, should the Army decides to go with other teams, Malia said: “I don’t anticipate that problem.”
The five teams that won awards in April 2019 to design FARA were: AVX Aircraft partnered with L3 Technologies; Bell Helicopter; Boeing; a Karem Aircraft, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon team; and Sikorsky.
Sikorsky’s offering is based on its X2 coaxial technology seen in its S-97 Raider and the Sikorsky-Boeing developed SB-1 Defiant, which are now both flying.
The prototype aircraft are expected to start flying in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, and the flight test is expected to run through 2023. The engineering and manufacturing development phase is expect to begin in FY24.
“This is the culmination of years of investment in the X2 Technology Demonstrator and the S-97 Raider aircraft that have proven the advanced technology and shown its ability to change the future battlefield,” Malia told Defense News when the company first unveiled its design for FARA.
FARA is intended to fill a critical capability gap currently being filled by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow unmanned aircraft following the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
The service has tried and failed three times to fill the gap with an aircraft.
The Army also plans to buy another helicopter to fill the long-range assault mission, simultaneously replacing some UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in the fleet. The SB-1 Defiant is a possible candidate for that future aircraft.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.