The Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) is the U.S. Army's eye towards a future battlefield where fast-moving helicopters support friendly ground forces in contested areas. The initiative falls under the broader "Future Vertical Lift" (FVL) program seeking five distinct helicopter types, these intended to share many common core components, to succeed an aging rotorcraft force led by the Boeing (Hughes) AH-64 "Apache" attack platform and Sikorsky UH-60 "Black Hawk" transport. The program is in response to the advancing age and overall abuse taken by the American helicopter force during prolonged commitments in both "Operation Enduring Freedom" (Afghanistan) and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (Iraq).
One of the key helicopter types to be succeeded is the Bell OH-58 "Kiowa" armed light scout which was is planned to be retired by the Army service in the mid-2030s. The FARA competition winner is expected to fill the same over-battlefield role but offer considerable benefits in performance, ordnance-carrying capabilities, and modern tactical flexibility.
One other key quality of the Raider-X not often seen in Western attack helicopter types is its side-by-side cockpit seating (carried over from the S-97 demonstrator), improving communications between the two crewmen and offering a second pair of eyes at the front of the fuselage (as opposed to tandem seating common to attack helicopters). The Russian Kamov Ka-52 "Alligator" attack helicopter utilizes a twin, side-by-side seating arrangement for the same reasons.
Any proposed weapons carried by the Raider-X will be held in internal bays to reduce the aircraft's radar signature. These bays will only open when weapons are ready for release. An added benefit to this quality is aerodynamic efficiency, particularly at higher speeds. Armament will primarily consist of of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) (such as the proven "Hellfire") but it is assumed that "smart" and "dumb" rockets as well as gun/cannon pods would figure into the mix for suppression of enemy elements at range.
The Sikorsky Raider-X is in direct competition with Bell's Model 360 "Invictus" (detailed elsewhere on this site) which was also revealed in October of 2019. Both are being offered in "unmanned" versions to satisfy the Army's requirement. Sikorsky falls under the Lockheed Martin parent brand label which gives it access to a deep pool of engineers as well as industry weight and project financing. However, Bell Helicopters is also a long-time producer of many successful helicopter designs - including the famous UH-1 "Huey" and AH-1 "Cobra" lines.
The U.S. Army is expecting to choose a winner for the prototype round during 2020 while a direct fly-off between two types is set for 2023. First-deliveries of operational-quality units are expected for sometime in 2028.
- Ground Attack
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
- X-Plane / Developmental
43.31 ft (13.2 m)
39.01 ft (11.89 m)
14,330 lb (6,500 kg)
249 mph (400 kph; 216 kts)
Weapons to be held in internal weapons bays primarily consisting of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs), surface-to-air missiles, rocket pods, and possible gun pods and cannon pods.
Raider-X - Base Program Designation; design based on the S-97 "Raider" technology demonstrator.