Bell 360 Invictus is a new attack and reconnaissance helicopter being developed by Bell Textron to deliver improved lethality, survivability, and extended range for army aviation.
The advanced helicopter is being offered for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme, which mainly aims to replace the army’s AH-65 Apache and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
The rotorcraft will offer security and situational awareness in the battlefield upon completion of its government flight test evaluation in 2023. It will serve as an affordable, lethal and sustainable solution, while delivering next generation performance.
Bell 360 Invictus development
Bell was contracted under other transaction authority for prototype (OTAP) agreement to design a vertical lift aircraft with advanced performance capabilities to face asymmetric threats in multi-domain operations, in April 2019.
In September 2019, Bell Textron entered a partnership agreement with Collins Aerospace Systems for avionics hardware and software incorporating cyber-hardened and enhanced digital solutions.
Collins Aerospace will also offer model-based systems engineering (MBSE) tools and processes to integrate mission avionics into the Bell 360 Invictus aircraft.
The attack and reconnaissance helicopter was unveiled at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) National Conference held in Washington DC in October 2019.
In March 2020, Bell Textron was selected to continue its work on US Army’s FARA programme, after almost a 12-month design and risk-reduction work.
Bell Textron preferred Triumph Systems & Support for the supply of hydraulic components for the Bell 360 Invictus aircraft in May 2020.
Design and features of Bell 360 Invictus
The rotorcraft’s design will be based on Bell 525 Relentless aircraft, which will feature hydraulic pump and reservoir assemblies. The robust, articulated rotor, lift-sharing wing and optimised tail rotor ensure effective attack and reconnaissance operations in both urban and rural areas. The helicopter will accommodate a pilot and a gunner.
The lift-sharing wing of the aircraft will mainly reduce rotor lift demand during forward flight and will offer high-speed manoeuvrability without a complex propulsion and drive system.
A digital toolkit aboard will help in reducing hundreds of man hours and downstream costs. The advanced digital flight control system will further offer an enhanced flight operations.
The helicopter will be fitted with state-of-the-art sensors and air-launched effects to improve situational awareness and lethality across all domains.
The modular open systems approach (MOSA) digital backbone will allow plug and play capability, while the platform will be compliant with future airborne capability environment (FACE). The digital fly-by-wire flight control system of the rotorcraft will be upgradeable throughout its life cycle.
3D digital twin will serve as a common data source as it helps in monitoring survivability and supporting test scenarios for evolving battlefield technology.
Bell 360 Invictus weapon systems
The payload capacity of the aircraft will be approximately 635kg (1,400lb) and the helicopter can carry internal and external weapons payloads.
The aircraft will be armed with an integrated munitions launcher and a 20mm cannon and will have the capability to support air-launched effects. It can also accommodate future weapons and current inventory of munitions.
Engine and performance
Bell 360 Invictus will be powered by General Electric’s T901 turbo-shaft engine, which will serve as the main power unit. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207D1 engine aboard the rotorcraft will act as a supplemental power unit delivering power for ground maintenance and system checks. It will also enhance cruise airspeed, dash speed, hover payload and autorotative performance.
The helicopter will be able to fly at a maximum cruise speed of 180k and offer a range of approximately 135nm with more than 90 minutes of time on station.
The main rotor will have high flapping capability ensuring high-speed flight. It will achieve hover out of ground effect (HOGE) of 4k/95F.