Bell’s design for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, the 360 Invictus
The American military’s record of throwing money away on lavish boondoggle projects is the stuff of legends, something that can only be expected from a country known for spending more on defense than the next dozen or so countries combined.The US Army is terminating its $7 billion Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) after spending at least $2 billion on the project.The decision, announced by acquisition officials this week as part of a broad overhaul of purchasing priorities, comes over five years after the FARA program’s approval as a prospective armed scout helicopter design meant to plug a gap in the Army’s aviation branch’s capabilities.
First unveiled in 2018 and designed to replace the 1960s vintage Bell OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, which was fully retired from service in 2020, the FARA is the latest program in a decades-long multi-billion-dollar odyssey of canceled or repurposed programs to create a chopper to take the OH-58’s place. In 2004, for example, the Army canceled its Comanche light recon chopper after pouring $9 billion into the project. In 2008, the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Bell ARH-70 Arapaho was scrapped amid delays and skyrocketing costs after four prototypes were built.
Bell Helicopter and Lockheed subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft were picked to develop the FARA prototype, coming up with the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X based on Army requirements that the chopper’s rotors and fuselage width be no more than 12 feet long, and that it could incorporate standard equipment and weapons, while remaining affordable for mass production.The Army slashed FARA, pouring money into the latest variant of the Black Hawk, the CH-47F Block II Chinook transport, as well as programs to improve its drone reconnaissance capability, with Army Chief of Staff Randy George saying the shakeup was the result of observations in the field of NATO’s ongoing proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, which he implied had effectively shown manned reconnaissance to be obsolete.“Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching, and more inexpensive than ever before,” George said, suggesting the aerial reconnaissance game “has fundamentally changed.”MilitaryPacking in Profits While Fueling Conflicts? US Foreign Arms Sales Rocket to Record Highs30 January, 14:32 GMTMeanwhile, James Rainey, the general in charge of the FARA program, assured that the cancellation did not constitute a “failure,” and that Army’s Futures Command continues to make “great progress,” with “the overwhelming majority of our signature modernization efforts…either on time or ahead of schedule and…starting to translate into capabilities.”The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the latest Pentagon project to be scrapped in a sector known for its vast waste and fraud. In late 2023, auditors revealed that the Pentagon couldn’t account for a whopping 63 percent of some $3.8 trillion in assets due to wasteful equipment and parts purchases and lack of appropriate accounting.