Bell’s Invictus nearly 90% complete, waiting on engine
By Dayna Fedy | March 7, 2022
Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 48 seconds.
Bell’s 360 Invictus advanced helicopter is nearing the finish line, as the aircraft is now 87 percent complete, the manufacturer confirmed during a March 7 press conference at HAI Heli-Expo 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
The latest update comes roughly one month after Bell shared that the new open tail rotor system had been attached to the Invictus prototype. The aircraft’s initial design featured a canted, ducted tail rotor. However, Bell opted to completely reconfigure the tail boom structure to improve weight, efficiency, and performance.
Invictus, which is Bell’s offering for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, is currently undergoing load testing at Bell’s manufacturing facility in Amarillo, Texas.
Carl Coffman, vice president of Bell’s military sales and strategies, told reporters that the company is aiming for a first flight by the third quarter of 2023, but that goal will depend on the delivery of the ITEP engine. (ITEP is the General Electric T901 Improved Turbine Engine chosen for the FARA program.)
Coffman said Bell is expecting the engine to arrive in November this year, but “if it continues to get pushed, then that will continue to affect the schedule,” he added.
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In the meantime, Bell has what Coffman referred to as a “surrogate” engine for Invictus, which is essentially a 3D printed engine that has allowed the company to complete form fit tests.
“We’re doing everything we can do right now to . . . stay on track,” said Coffman. “Once we get the engine, everything will be in line; we’ll just have a space in the aircraft for the engine to go.”
The engine is to be mounted aft and to the left of the main rotor hub. Opposite to that will be a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207D1, which will act as a supplemental power unit.
As per U.S. Army speed requirements, the tandem-cockpit, single-main-rotor Bell 360 Invictus is designed to fly at least 180 knots. The aircraft’s main rotor system is based on Bell’s 525 Relentless helicopter — which has flown at speeds beyond 200 knots in test flights — but will be scaled to fit the Invictus. While the Bell 525 has five rotor blades, the 360 Invictus will have four.
Bell is competing against Sikorsky and its Raider X helicopter in the FARA contest. The Raider X is a compound-coaxial helicopter with counter-spinning main rotors and a pusher propeller.