Bell Textron has unveiled the design for the company’s entrant into the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: a single-rotor helicopter called the Bell 360 Invictus. The shark-like design, which uses rotor technology developed for the Bell 525 Relentless medium-lift helicopter, will be “optionally manned” capable—meaning it can either carry a crew of two or fly autonomously.
The Army is looking for a “knife fighter” for the FARA role—a high-speed, agile, and lightly armed helicopter capable of defending itself while probing enemy positions—rather than a heavy attack helicopter. A winning FARA design will have to be able to maneuver in urban environments, fly at speeds above 200mph (322km/h), and fly without pilots to perform intelligence and reconnaissance missions.
The Army retired its last dedicated scout helicopter, the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, in 2017; since then, the Army’s armed reconnaissance squadrons have flown the Boeing AH-64 Apache instead. But the Army is looking to retire about half of the Apache fleet with whichever aircraft wins the FARA competition, beginning in 2028.