The American company Bell Helicopter presented the project of the promising high-speed reconnaissance helicopter Bell 360 Invictus, which it intends to offer the US Army as part of the FARA tender. According to Defense News, the company plans to present a full-size model of the helicopter on October 14, 2019 at the exhibition of the US Army Association.
The FARA contest is held by the US Army as part of a larger FVL tender, which involves the development and production of five types of new aircraft for army aviation: from light reconnaissance and medium strike to heavy transport. According to the results of the competition, the winner will have to create a helicopter capable of flying at least 205 knots (380 kilometers per hour).
In April of this year, the US Army concluded with five companies contracts for the development of projects for high-speed reconnaissance helicopters, which in the future will have to replace the decommissioned OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The agreements were signed with AVX Aicraft, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky. All participants in the competition will have to protect the projects of new helicopters in 2020.
Bell Helicopter announced that their reconnaissance helicopter will be developed on the basis of the Bell 525 Relentless civil multi-purpose helicopter. From the basic version, the new machine will inherit the “glass” cockpit and fully digital control. The hull of the helicopter will be made using stealth technologies.
Bell 360 will be able to fly at a speed of 180 knots (333.4 kilometers per hour). The helicopter will also receive a tail stabilizer with moving aerodynamic surfaces. The first flight of the helicopter is scheduled for 2022.
The helicopter will be armed with an air gun of 20 millimeters caliber and will be able to carry missiles, bombs, as well as weapons containers. Bell 360 can be transported by C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. Outwardly, the promising machine resembles an attack helicopter RAH-66 Comanche, which was created in the 1990s by a consortium of Boeing and Sikorsky companies.
Earlier, two companies publicly presented their reconnaissance helicopter projects. One of them – Sikorsky – is already conducting flight tests of a promising helicopter. AVX Aircraft presented its project in April 2019. Boeing Aircraft Group refused to publicly present its project, citing fierce competition from other participants.