Bell recently unveiled their new proposal for a single-rotor Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft that they claim will be better suited for the urban conflicts of the 21st century. This new platform, dubbed the “360 Invictus,” will pack a similar punch to the long-serving Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, thanks to 20mm cannons and the ability to carry Hellfire missiles along with rockets and other munitions. Bell also claims it will have high speed cruising capabilities and enough fuel for long range engagements.
“The Army realized that they absolutely do need a smaller aircraft that’s … able to operate in urban canyons as well as out in mixed terrain,” said Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.
According to Bell, the Invictus’ improved maneuverability over existing platforms will allow it to better operate inside urban environments, but its range and speed will also make it well suited for the open terrain of conflicts in nations like Afghanistan and Syria. While the helicopter design is still years away from its first flight (expected to take place sometime in 2022), it is expected to build off of existing technology, like Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system and fly-by-wire computers, in conjunction with all-new avionics hardware and software suites provided by Collins Aerospace. The result is supposed to not only offer a great deal in the way of combat capabilities but is even expected to allow the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) the ability to operate without a pilot on board.
“We have a solution that can accomplish those missions, but it’s also the lowest-risk, and therefore probably the lowest-cost aircraft, to be able to accomplish [that],” Schloesser said.
According to Bell, they’ve already built a full scale model of their Invictus design in order to confirm that it can be transported inside a C-17 Globemaster III or even a 40-foot CONEX box for rapid transportation and deployment anywhere in the world.
In April of this year, Bell (a subsidiary of Textron) was one of five firms to be awarded contracts to continue development on the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) concept. Bell now hopes this shark-like design will beat out the competition at AVX Aircraft Co., Boeing, Karem Aircraft, and Sikorski in order to secure the funding required to move the Invictus into production. The Army intends to have its choice of FARA designs in operation by the 2030s, alongside new a Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and others that fall under the broader Future Vertical Lift Initiative, or FVL.