Attack and reconnaissance aircraft
AVX Aircraft and L3 Technologies
Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA)
Compound coaxial helicopter (CCH) was a demonstrator aircraft proposed for the US Army future attack reconnaissance aircraft competitive prototype (FARA CP) programme.
CCH was designed and developed jointly by AVX Aircraft Company and L3 Technologies, now known as L3Harris.
The aircraft was designed as part of the programme, which is set to replace approximately 50% of the AH-64 Apache fleet.
AVX Aircraft and L3Harris announced their participation for phase one of the FARA competitive prototype programme in December 2018. The aircraft design was revealed in April 2019 and the prototype was exhibited at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition in October 2019.
Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft programme details
The FARA programme is part of the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme, which also includes the future unmanned aircraft system, advanced UAS, and future long-range assault aircraft (FLRAA) programmes in addition to the FARA.
The FVL programme aims to produce aircraft with high speed, low radar signature, higher payload capability, greater agility, lethality, and survivability. All the FVL category aircraft will be optionally manned aircraft with modular open system architectures and vertical take-off and landing feature.
The FARA programme was initiated in 2018 with a $1.9bn transactional authority prototype solicitation. The US Army shortlisted Boeing, Sikorsky Aircraft, Bell Helicopter Textron, and Karem Aircraft along with AVX Aircraft-L3Harris partnership for the FARA phase one competitive prototype programme. The five participants were ordered to produce competitive prototypes in accordance with the US Army requirements.
Sikorsky Aircraft proposed a model based on its Sikorsky X2 technology, which was also used for the S-97 Raider aircraft to meet and exceed the requirements of the FARA programme.
The US Army shortlisted two prototypes of Bell Helicopter Textron and Sikorsky Aircraft during the second phase of the FARA programme in March 2020 and allocated a fixed funding of $735m between 2020 and 2023. The FARA aircraft production is expected to begin in 2024. The selected winners entered into phase two which involves detailed design, build, and test, which will be followed by the final phase of prototype assessment and evaluation for transition to production phase.
Compound coaxial helicopter design and features
The compound coaxial helicopter design solution was proposed to completely meet or at least exceed 70% of the mandatory requirements of the FARA programme. It was conceptualised to meet modular open systems architecture requirements of the US Army, while allowing component reuse and system commonality across fleets.
CCH Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft was planned to be developed as a platform capable of performing modern aerial warfare in challenging, complex, and degraded environments for longer duration while providing economical life-cycle cost. It is capable of hovering out of ground effect (HOGE) and carrying payloads using a sling mount.
The aircraft proposal featured a modified tail boom, moderately tapered high wings, coaxial double rotors, high-mounted dual ducted fans on each side, one troop entrance door on each side, and a rear ramp for cargo and troops. The undercarriage will feature a retractable landing gear.
The interior can accommodate two crew and 14 troops. A dedicated chief gunner seat can be used to perform manual firing.
Compound coaxial helicopter tail boom modification and coaxial rotors
AVX Aircraft’s patented tail boom modification will offer higher speed, endurance, and extended range, while eliminating the need for extra power for the anti-torque used in the conventional tail boom.
The planned design included two ducted fans, which provide forward and reverse thrust leading to higher in-flight speeds with added agility. The ducted fan is considered an effective alternative of the conventional rotor tilt propulsion. The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft’s stability was expected to be ensured by the axial flow ducted fan along with a tail unit integrating vertical and horizontal stabilisers.
The combat reconnaissance helicopter coaxial blades and wings can be folded manually, thus reducing the space requirements and meeting the C-17 loading and the Navy DDG shipboard size limits.
Compound coaxial helicopter avionics and systems
A fly-by-wire system and advanced cockpit design was incorporated in the planned aircraft to assist the pilot and crew to perform missions effectively. The aircraft was also supposed to feature modern open system architecture along with advanced avionics systems.
The proposal for the nose section featured sensor systems as well as reconnaissance systems such as high-definition gimbal-mounted cameras. Weapon systems can be mounted on either side of the fuselage.