After months of no-comment, the CEO of Bell Flight’s parent company revealed that Bell will offer a conventional helicopter for the Army’s new scout, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
That’s a stark contrast from the high-speed, long-range V-280 tiltrotor that Bell is pushing for the larger Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or from the propeller-plus-rotors compound helicopters that rival Sikorsky is offering for both FLRAA and FARA.
Bell’s case? They say they can meet the 205 knot (235 mph) speed requirement for the scout without resorting to more complex technologies that cost more to build and maintain. That’s potentially very appealing to the Army, which has included maximum costs for initial purchase — no more than $30 million per aircraft — and per flying hour as requirements alongside aerodynamic performance.
The news was first reported by Aviation International News Online a few days ago (18 April), citing a conference call Textron CEO Scott Donnelly had with stock analysts on Wednesday. Breaking Defense independently obtained a copy of the transcript. (A full excerpt of the relevant section is below).
The Bell FARA design will be a smaller version of the Bell 525 Relentless, which is still in flight tests and awaiting final FAA certification. The 525 was being marketed as a 16-passenger commercial passenger helicopter, particularly for shuttling personnel to and from remote oil platforms.
Bell does have a long record of converting civilian designs to military roles and vice versa: In fact, the Army’s long-serving OH-58 Kiowa scout, which FARA will effectively replace, was a modified Bell 206 JetRanger. But the Bell FARA design is going to be a new helicopter used technologies developed and tested on the Bell 525, which itself is too large for the Army’s requirements.