US Army Cancels FARA Helicopter Program Despite Spending $2B

The US Army is calling off the development of its much-awaited Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA).

The service made the decision despite already spending at least $2 billion and requesting an additional $ 5 billion budget to sustain the program over the next five years.

Army leaders told a select group of media that a “change in priorities” was the main reason behind the program’s cancellation.

They said the service will opt to invest more in existing rotary aviation platforms and new uncrewed systems, recognizing that the country “could go to war tonight, this weekend.”

“We are learning from the battlefield – especially Ukraine – that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” Army Chief Gen. Randy George said. “Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching and more inexpensive than ever before.”

With the army’s recent announcement, the FARA program cancellation is one of the most significant of the last decade, especially as it was once tagged as a top modernization priority.

History Repeating

Launched in 2018, the FARA program was meant to produce an armed reconnaissance helicopter to replace the Vietnam-era OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

Before the cancellation, the army had initiated several efforts dating back to 2004 for an armed scout that could meet demanding battlefield requirements.

The first program, the Comanche, was terminated despite the service spending $9 billion for two prototypes.

Four years later, the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter was canceled due to “schedule delays and soaring costs.”

But even when the Kiowa replacement effort seemed finally up and running with the FARA program, analysts urged the US Army to rethink its plans and consider the rising security risks in the Indo-Pacific and Eastern Europe.

“Developing expensive and untested platforms that may not be available to military personnel for years undermines readiness and only increases immediate risks,” President of the Frontiers of Freedom think tank George Landrith wrote in a 2023 The Defense Post opinion article.

‘Disappointed’ Firms

The US Army had two prototypes for the FARA program: the Raider X developed by Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin and the 360 Invictus from Bell Textron.

Last year, the two competing companies said their proposals were already above 90 percent complete.

Sikorsky told Forbes after the announcement that they are disappointed with the decision and that they will await a US Army debrief “to better understand its choice.”

Bell also commented on the cancellation, saying they are also disappointed but vow to apply all they have learned to future aircraft development.

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