Army begins search for new recon helicopter

October 5, 2018 at 4:14 PM

The Army this week issued a formal solicitation for Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft design concepts, following senior service leader approval.

The service seeks prototype submissions by Dec. 18. for the FARA, one of two key aircraft projects under the Future Vertical Lift modernization priority.

The Army will award four to six contractors each a $15 million contract for their designs, and then two will move on to eventually produce the prototypes.

The two contractors chosen for the final stage “will receive a fixed funding level of approximately $735 [million] between [fiscal years 2020 and 2023],” according to the Oct. 3 solicitation.

FARA is planned to be a light-attack, reconnaissance helicopter that can avoid radar detection and operate in large cities, a capability the service said it lacks entirely.

In addition to being low-maintenance and user friendly, the Army wants a helicopter able to be flown by one or two pilots or piloted remotely from the ground.

The Army has not had a dedicated reconnaissance helicopter since last January, when it retired the OH-58 Kiowa. The service instead uses a manned-unmanned teaming approach to fill the gap, employing an unmanned aircraft system with an Apache helicopter.

Army aviation branch chief Maj. Gen. William Gayler said last year that procuring a new reconnaissance attack helicopter was his office's No. 1 priority.