The United States Army has enacted the FARA ("Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft") requirement to find a successor to its Boeing AH-64E "Apache" currently being utilized in the armed reconnaissance role. The role once fell to the lightweight Bell OH-58 "Kiowa Warrior" which was retired in 2014. The Boeing RAH-66 "Comanche" stealth helicopter, joined by the Bell ARH-70 "Arapaho", were both developed for the role but both saw cancellation at various points in their timelines.
Boeing's entry reveals shades of the RAH-66 stealth helicopter cancelled in 2004: its design is sleek with streamlining to the extreme complete with a low-mounted main rotor blade unit, internal side-fuselage weapons bays, and well-contoured engine intakes. The crew of two is seated in a typical tandem fashion with the pilot in the rear cockpit and the weapons officer in the front. At the "chin" position is a triple-barreled Gatling-style automatic cannon installed in a trainable mounting allowing the helicopter to attack light-armored ground targets at various angles. For stouter ground targets, the internal weapons bays each house 2 x AGM-114 "Hellfire" Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) for lethal killing firepower at range.
As with other FARA entries, the Boeing proposal is of "compound" arrangement utilizing a standard main rotor along with a tail rotor unit facing port side. To this added a "propulsor" unit in "pusher" configuration adding the required performance to this fast-reconnaissance aircraft. To preserve aerodynamic efficiency, the "tail-dragger" wheeled undercarriage is wholly retractable in the design and the missile armament, being held completely internally until needed, offers no drag for straight line dashing actions.
The main rotor blade consists of a six-bladed assembly seated low over the fuselage while the tail rotor is given four blades and the propulsor unit follows suit with four blades of its own. All are driven by a single-engine arrangement buried within the fuselage of the helicopter. The end result is a helicopter with the performance of a fixed-wing aircraft all the while retaining its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capabilities.
Internally, the aircraft is to be controlled through an all-modern, digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) system offering the agility and maneuvering required of operating in contested airspaces at low altitudes. Controls are being made redundant allowing either cockpit position to guide the aircraft as needed. The cockpit offers exceptional vision due to its light framing which, when coupled with the advanced onboard systems, enhances crew and machine survivability. Furthermore, the cockpit is configurable for mission need and future growth through an open architecture approach. Pilots are granted access to a wholly-modern touch screen environment for ease-of-use.
The competitive fly-off phase of the FARA program is set to be had in 2023 with operational capability reached sometime in 2028. Competition is being had from AVX, Bell, Karem / Northrop / Raytheon, and Sikorsky.
The Boeing entry involves defense players AvioniX and Aurora Flight Sciences and is being headed by Boeing Phantom Works.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
42.7 ft (13.00 m)
39.4 ft (12.00 m)
11.0 ft (3.35 m)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Boeing FARA production variant)
1 x General Electric Aviation XT901 turboshaft engine developing 3,000 horsepower each driving a six-bladed main rotor unit, four-bladed tail rotor unit (facing port side), and four-bladed propulsor unit in "pusher" configuration.
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