The U.S. Army is considering whether it should purchase Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) to replace its aging fleet of Boeing AH-64 Apache and Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior copters, reported Task & Purpose.
“The FARA will only replace Apaches in our heavy attack reconnaissance squadrons and this represents about half of the Apache fleet,” a spokesperson for Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Aviation Week.
“There have already been serious questions about whether the AH-64 platform will be able to remain relevant, especially in a high-end conflict environment, through 2048, when the Army plans to retire the very last of the gunships,” Joseph Trevithick at The War Zone explained.
“The Army expects to be integrating significant upgrades into its latest AH-64E Guardian variants through 2026. These include updates to its fire control and targeting systems, improved data sharing and fusion capabilities, better sensors, a more robust ability to work directly with unmanned aircraft and more,” Trevithick added.
In 2018, the Army selected several FARA candidates. Sikorsky is currently in the running with the S-97 Raider high-speed scout and attack helicopter. Bell is developing a V-280 Valor tiltrotor that was also selected.
Video: Sikorsky S-97 Raider flight test
Video: Bell V-280 Valor flight test
“We’re looking for an aircraft that, without going into specific requirements or classifications, essentially goes further, can see further, can acquire specific targets further and can engage at greater ranges than current exist and has greater legs – can fly further with a greater payload of weapon systems,” Milley told Congress on March 26, 2019.
The Army could purchase hundreds of FARA helicopters within the next ten years. If a new helicopter replaces the AH-64 and OH-58D, then the service could be looking at 700 new aircraft – a contract worth tens of billions of dollars.