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Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA)

FARA is going to be the greatest armed reconnaissance helicopter in the world. Why is FARA expected to succeed when other scout/recon/light attack programs have not? The Army stated 28 June 2018 "The Army accumulates lessons learned from all programs. FARA employs innovative techniques for requirements definition, oversight and execution, and transition to the planned PoR [Program of Record]."

In 2012, the Army reassigned a portion of its AH-64 Apache fleet to support heavy attack reconnaissance squadrons, as a replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa. This was a suboptimal solution. The Apache is an attack helicopter; it is not an armed reconnaissance helicopter. At the time, theArmy did it for budget considerations. After FARA is fielded, the Army plans to replace about 50 percent of its aging AH-64 fleet.

The Apache/Gray Eagle team is suitable for the current mission. The future mission demands a more advanced capability. Air cavalry squadrons may receive FARA, while there would still be room for Apache helicopters. Apache helicopter would remain in the attack battalions and being incrementally improved for some time into the future.

The Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team has started to rapidly develop two aircraft -- the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long Range Attack Aircraft, which aim to replace some AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, respectively. For the FARA program, the team expects to award two vendors next year to create competitive prototypes that will perform a government-sponsored fly-off in 2023.

Army Contracting Commands (ACC) solicited proposals for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototype (FARA CP) using an Other Transaction for Prototype (OTAP) in accordance with 10 United States Code (USC) 2371b. U.S. Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal (ACC-RSA), Aviation Development Directorate Eustis (ADD-E) Contracting Division was acting on behalf of the U.S. Army Futures Command, Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVL CFT).

AVX/L3, Bell, Boeing, Karem, and Sikorsky submitted designs for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. At first glance, they bear a striking resemblance to the Comanche, a stealth helicopter the Army tried to field some 20 years ago. The Army will choose two of five competing teams to build prototypes for a new Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

  1. AVX Aircraft teamed up with L3Harris Technologies to offer the Compound Coaxial Helicopter (CCH). The AVX and L3 team unveiled its design for FARA at the Army Aviation Association of Americas annual summit in Nashville, Tennessee, in April 2019. The single-engine design uses AVXs compound coaxial and ducted fans technology.
  2. Bell partnered with Collins Aerospace in proposing the 360 Invictus. Bell revealed its design the Bell 360 Invictus based off its 525 technology shortly before the AUSA annual conference in 2019. It features a single main rotor in a four-blade configuration and a low-drag tandem cockpit fuselage.
  3. Boeing FARA helicopter has a thrust-compounded single main rotor design
  4. Karem announced it would team with Northrop and Raytheon and came out with its design at AUSA its AR-40 with a single main rotor, tilting compound wings and a rotating tail rotor.
  5. Sikorskys offering Raider X is based on both its X2 coaxial technology seen in its S-97 Raider and the Sikorsky-Boeing-developed SB-1 Defiant, which are now both flying. Raider X is already under construction.

The Army's Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team looked to award two vendors in March 2020. After the Army made a selection, the two companies will present competitive prototypes followed by a "government-sponsored fly off" in 2023.

Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA)

Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototype (FARA CP) CP funds a competitive prototyping effort to design, build, and test a FARA in an operationally relevant environment at a technological readiness level (TRL) 7. The results of this prototyping and test effort will support a decision to enter into a formal program of record for EMD through production as a rapid acquisition.

FARA CP would be comparable in size to what has been described as Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Capability Set (CS) 1. FVL CS 1 air vehicle is the smallest, most agile air vehicle in the FVL Family of Systems (FoS). The CS 1 air vehicle will conduct reconnaissance, light attack and light assault/lift operations in support of Army and Joint forces. The a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Capability Set (CS) 1 Request for Information dated 18 February 2016 focused on technologies targeted for a 2030 fielding.

The aircraft should accommodate two pilots but should also be capable of being piloted by only one pilot or remotely piloted from a ground station. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) have an interest in FARA variants that can carry passengers, but the Army does not. Some JMR Mission Systems Architecture Demonstration (MSAD) technologies are mature enough to enable Modular Open systems approach (MOSA) on FARA, and others are maturing. The Government will provide guidance on MOSA architecture as part of the final solicitation.

Future aircraft will also require a Modular Open System Architecture. This is envisioned it to have something similar to how smartphones can easily receive and complete updates every few weeks. It took too long to make updates on the reconnaissance helicopter.

Army Aviation must operate in highly contested/complex airspace and degraded environments against peer/near peer adversaries capable of an advanced integrated air defense system. The Army currently lacks the ability to conduct armed reconnaissance, light attack, and security with improved stand-off and lethal and non-lethal capabilities with a platform sized to hide in RADAR clutter and for the urban canyons of mega cities. To close this gap, the Army envisions an optionally manned, next generation rotorcraft with attributes of reduced cognitive workload, increased operational tempo (OPTEMPO) through ultra-reliable designs and extended maintenance free periods, and advanced teaming and autonomous capabilities.

Teamed with unmanned systems and various air launched effects, this platform will be the center piece of the integrated air defense system (IADS) breeching team to provide freedom of maneuver in a multi-domain battle. This platform is the knife fighter of future Army Aviation capabilities, a small form factor platform with maximized performance. Critical to this envisioned platform is a resilient digital backbone designed to allow rapid capability advancement in subsystems and software and affordable life cycle management. This purpose built aircraft will be fielded at echelons above division but other variants could be fielded across all aviation formations.

The FARA CP will be designed and developed within a streamlined acquisition approach leveraging modern tools and processes, industry innovation, and a revolutionary Government approach through the recently implemented Army strategy of Cross Functional Teams. The intent for the aircraft developed under this solicitation is to have an open architecture on the platform to allow efficient integration of mission equipment throughout the lifecycle. However, it is anticipated that full mission capability will occur through integration efforts within Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) or an equivalent effort post-FARA CP.

Typical efficiencies utilized during science and technology (S&T) project execution similar to the Armys Joint Multirole Technology Demonstration (JMR TD) program will be implemented within this effort as further explained throughout this solicitation. Furthermore, leveraging the Performance Based Acquisition approach of a Statement of Objectives (SOO), the government is providing in this solicitation the overall goal and objectives for this effort to include some minimum requirements in the areas of airworthiness/qualification, government oversight and reviews, deliverables, and system performance. This will allow industry offerors to propose efficiencies in these areas and overall approach to meeting FARA CP goals and best prepare for, and streamline, the follow on efforts to reach production and maintain affordability. Only Industry participants selected for the FARA CP program subsequent phases to complete the comprehensive systems integration and conduct full airworthiness qualification required to execute a production decision.

Several incremental steps will be utilized to ensure the Government is continuing to invest appropriately. In FY19, the Government anticipates multiple (four to six) initial awards will be made based on proposed conceptual designs and approaches to obtain the FARA CP desired results.

Industry participants will be given approximately nine months to develop preliminary designs and provide the government team with the data and insight required to make a down-selection to two companies/teams after an Initial Design and Risk Review (ID&RR). The number of Industry participants will be reduced to two after the Initial Design and Risk Review to maintain a competitive environment for a subsequent program of record. Decisions will be made by assessing initial design and approach data against the following criteria:

  • Re-evaluation of design, technical approach, management approach or cost based on changes since proposal or more complete data set with which to evaluate. (In accordance with Evaluation Criteria/Basis of Selection section of this solicitation.)
  • Likelihood of meeting key performance attributes/measures, threshold requirements or other factors that contribute to meeting the FARA CP objective.
  • Credibility of analytical predictions. The range and probability of possible outcomes should be quantified. The ability to analytically bridge the gap between demonstrated and design performance for the small set of cases where the objective equipment set may not be available (i.e. Improved Turbine Engine).
  • Assessment of remaining risk and feasible mitigation path.
  • Overall approach to sustainment, survivability, durability, and airworthiness.
  • Anticipated life-cycle affordability, including acquisition and sustainment costs.
  • Cost and schedule performance to-date.
  • Degree of collaboration and data sharing (with appropriate rights) with the Government.

The two companies/teams that are selected will proceed to detail design, build, and test phase that includes all other necessary and supporting tasks. A Final Design & Risk Review (FD&RR) will be executed to provide government approval to continue the effort. Subsequent to the completion of technical drawings and subsystem testing, an Initial Preliminary Design Review (IPDR) will be executed to provide the government the required insight, data, and documentation to execute the efforts associated with a MS B and subsequent EMD phase.

The aircraft must be designed to accommodate production and supportability methods. Rapid prototyping methods may be used in order to meet the schedule constraints provided there is a low risk path to a production and supportability approach. Developmental ground and flight testing (DT) to characterize vehicle behavior and expand flight envelope shall be conducted as a combined test team with both Government and Industry participant flight test personnel. After a sufficient DT period for envelope clearance and safety qualification, the competitive prototypes will be transferred to the Government with sufficient contractor logistics support (CLS) to perform Government flight testing.

The FARA Project Manager (PM) sought information under the 13 April 2020 "FARA Mission Systems" Request for Information (RFI) on potential mission systems to be integrated and qualified on the FARA aircraft during engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) with eventual transition to production and fielding. Information provided as part of this RFI will inform FARA risk reduction activities and near-term aircraft configuration decisions.

Fully-integrated 20mm cannon with minimum 180 degree, desired 360 degree of azimuthal coverage and 60 degree elevation coverage.

Sensor systems and fused sensor systems capable of providing pilotage through a solid state staring array covering 360 degrees in degraded visual environments (DVE), day/night air and ground targeting at close, mid, and extended ranges to maximize target acquisition capabilities and support all munition types, low-light and wire/obstacle detection, radar detection, radar interferometry, weather detection, terrain avoidance, and situational awareness. Software that minimizes pilot workload through fusion of multiple sensor inputs and artificial intelligence to aid in pilot decision-making. All sensor data should be capable of internal transmission to pilot head-up displays and multiple cockpit displays and external transmission to other systems in the operational environment.

A multi-band and single band communications suite capable of providing line of sight and beyond light of sight communications in HF, VHF (AM/FM), UHF (AM/SATCOM), Link 16, advanced networking waveforms, Blue Force Tracking, workload-reduced manned/unmanned (MUM) teaming through Level of Interoperability (LOI) 5, identification/transponders, and internal communications. Aircraft Surveillance capable of Mode 5 Level 2 out/in, Mode 5 Level 2 Broadcast, Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) In/out, and interrogation of air and ground threats. The FARA PM is interested in a comprehensive suite that minimizes weight, simplifies integration for future modifications/upgrades, and is fully integrated with and conformant to the aircraft open system architecture.

Aircraft navigation sets capable of legacy and next generation civil navigation modes in VHF Nav/ILS, TACAN, Doppler, EGI with M-code encryption, and assured precision navigation and timing (A-PNT), and Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) assisted visual-based solutions for aerial navigation in GPS denied environments and under Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). The FARA PM is also interested in solutions and software applications that support supervised autonomy / optionally-manned flight.

Aircraft Survivability Equipment to provide spherical coverage of the host platform in order to defeat the FARA threats. Aircraft survivability systems capable of detecting RF, IR, and laser threats. Missile warning systems capable of threat launch detection. Hostile fire systems capable of ballistic fire detection. Countermeasure systems capable of protecting against RF and IR threats. Electronic Warfare (EW) to include RF jamming systems. The FARA PM is interested in a comprehensive ASE suite that minimizes weight, can be fused with aircraft navigation and pilotage systems, and fully integrated with and conformant to the aircraft open architecture. Infrastructure / Digital Backbone Components, technologies and standards that support and complement the Governments MOSA objective to enable rapid development, integration, and modification of mission systems and enhanced mission systems capabilities by qualified third-party integrators without air vehicle OEM involvement.



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