Enlarge / It is a fowl! It is a shark! It is Invictus, Bell’s proposed Military scout helicopter.Bell-Textron
Bell Textron has unveiled the design for the corporate’s entrant into the US Military’s Future Assault Reconnaissance Plane (FARA) program: a single-rotor helicopter referred to as the Bell 360 Invictus. The shark-like design, which makes use of rotor expertise developed for the Bell 525 Relentless medium-lift helicopter, can be “optionally manned” succesful—that means it may possibly both carry a crew of two or fly autonomously.
The Military is on the lookout for a “knife fighter” for the FARA function—a high-speed, agile, and frivolously armed helicopter able to defending itself whereas probing enemy positions—relatively than a heavy assault helicopter. A profitable FARA design could have to have the ability to maneuver in city environments, fly at speeds above 200mph (322km/h), and fly with out pilots to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance missions.
The Military retired its final devoted scout helicopter, the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, in 2017; since then, the Military’s armed reconnaissance squadrons have flown the Boeing AH-64 Apache as an alternative. However the Military is seeking to retire about half of the Apache fleet with whichever plane wins the FARA competitors, starting in 2028.
Bell’s rivals within the FARA design competitors embrace Lockheed’s Sikorsky unit and Boeing (which teamed on a design for the Military’s different main new plane effort, the Future Lengthy Vary Assault Plane program). Airbus has additionally indicated that it has submitted a design for the competitors.
Sikorsky would seem to have a reasonably lengthy lead when it comes to preliminary execution on its design—the S-97 Raider, a helicopter with superior coaxial inflexible rotors and a single pusher rotor, able to an airspeed of 280mph (440km/h or 240 knots), was developed with the scouting mission in thoughts and first flew in 2015. However Boeing is reportedly taking a look at a high-speed design derived from the Apache AH-64E Guardian. And Airbus has proposed a design primarily based on its Eurocopter X3 experimental high-speed hybrid helicopter with two outboard pusher rotors.
The Bell design is much less radical than Sikorsky’s and Airbus’ designs on the floor, however Bell claims that the plane could have comparable efficiency capabilities. The 525 Relentless rotor system has been in a position to obtain speeds “above 200 Knots True Air Pace (KTAS)” (230mph, 370 km/h). And the Invictus design consists of lift-sharing wings to cut back the elevate necessities on rotors throughout high-speed ahead flight—supposed to assist scale back the retreating blade stall impact skilled by standard helicopters at excessive velocity.
The Bell design additionally features a 20mm cannon within the nostril and built-in “munitions launchers” on both sides, able to carrying Hellfire missiles and different present and future air-launched weapons. It additionally will carry “enhanced situational consciousness and sensor applied sciences,” in line with a Bell press assertion. It should incorporate a “Digital Spine” created by Collins Aerospace to accommodate the Protection Division’s need for a “Modular Open Methods Strategy” to avionics and techniques—an engineering mandate to make fast upgrades doable and decrease later acquisition prices.