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Boeing is putting forth a single-main-rotor helicopter with a conventional tail rotor and pusher propeller to provide high-speed thrust for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.
In the latest of a series of teaser videos posted to Twitter, Boeing’s closely held design can clearly be seen as the aircraft flies away from the viewer in the final frames. Clearly visible in the video posted Feb. 26 is a four-blade pusher propulsor aft of a conventional tail rotor mounted to a pylon canted away from the tail boom.
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) February 25, 2020
The aircraft, still called simply Boeing FARA, also features a chin-mounted three-barrel rotary cannon below a nose-mounted ball sensor, a six-bladed main rotor, tandem cockpit configuration and stub wings carrying what appear to be weapons. Army requirements call for interior weapons stowage to reduce drag, but the video does not show whether the wings fold into the airframe.
Developed by Phantom Works, Boeing’s is the last FARA design of five to go public. A series of teaser videos have run in recent weeks on Twitter and other Boeing social media accounts. At the Army’s largest annual trade show in October, Boeing held a press conference where the company, citing a competitive environment, conspicuously revealed nothing about their design except that key Army Aviation officials knew what it looked like and it would be revealed in good time.
The company was planning to reveal the aircraft design in March.
Boeing’s three separate rotor systems stand apart from the other four competitors’ designs. Bell’s 360 Invictus has a tandem cockpit, a single main rotor and a canted, ducted tail rotor that provides extra lift at high speed. Sikorsky’s Raider X is a compound coaxial helicopter with side-by-side cockpit, dual counter-spinning rigid main rotors and a pusher prop similar to Boeing’s.
AVX Aircraft also is pitching a compound coaxial helicopter with side-by-side seating and dual ducted fans for forward thrust. Rounding out the field is Karem Aircraft’s AR-40, with also side-by-side cockpit, a single main rotor, 40-foot wingspan and tail rotor that swivels from a conventional orientation in helicopter mode to pusher prop at high speed.
Each of the designs is reaching for the 180-knot speed threshold the Army will require in a FARA, which will fill the gap left by retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
The teams are working under FARA design contracts awarded in April 2019. The Army will cut funding to three of the teams sometime in March, at which time the remaining two teams will build operational competitive prototypes that will go head-to-head in an Army sponsored fly-off.