DH - Defence Helicopter

Airbus confirms FARA proposal but keeps platform under wrap

20th February 2019 - 12:08 GMT | by Tim Martin in Donauwörth

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Airbus Helicopters has confirmed its involvement in the US Army’s FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) programme, having formally filed a proposal in December 2018 to meet initial design review phase requirements.

The army anticipates awarding between four to six contracts to industry by July 2019 as part of the nine-month design review and will then downselect two aircraft for demonstration activities.

Despite the relatively short deadline for the design review contracts to be awarded however, OEMs continue to be guarded in revealing the specific platforms they are offering.

In line with this trend and the ‘highly competitive’ nature of the programme, Airbus hinted that technologies and capabilities proven by their past and present high speed demonstrators could have been a basis for its proposal, but didn’t officially confirm.

‘We are in a competitive phase right now and we don’t want to get too far out in front by talking in a lot of detail about what the specific offering is but….going back to the X cubed demo, in 2013 that technology [is of note],’ Scott Tumpak, VP of military programmes at Airbus Helicopters explained. ‘On the commercial path, RACER is being evolved and you could also envision a military path for that technology as well.’

Tumpak identified two main technical requirements issued by the Army for the programme, a 40ft rotor disc criteria and a 180kt cruise speed target, both of which suggest that competitors will field innovative designs compared to more traditional airframes.

He also referred to ‘a number of companies and technology firms proposing solutions’ for the design review, a hint perhaps that competitors other than OEMs have submitted proposals.

‘In our mind, one of the major purposes of this design review is to have a dialogue about what the trade space looks like with the customer,’ he added.

While there is a much lengthier period to wait until a programme of record is reached on the FARA programme, a Broad Agency Announcement issued by the US Army Contracting Command and established for the FVL Cross-Functional Team in October 2018, confirmed the army's plans to acquire a future armed reconnaissance or light attack prototype that may evolve to an eventual production requirement of 500 aircraft with IOC by 2028. 

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