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    HomeMilitaryArmy's Canceled FARA Program Spurs Strategic Shifts and Questions

    Army’s Canceled FARA Program Spurs Strategic Shifts and Questions

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    OV-10 Bronco
    OV-10 Bronco

    In an unexpected pivot, the U.S. Army’s cancellation of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program has necessitated a strategic realignment within the defense industry, leaving two major defense contractors and their advanced prototypes searching for a new path forward.

    Duxford England May 2021 TSR-2 fighter bomber exhibited in duxford , extremely rare plane that never went into full production
    Duxford England May 2021 TSR-2 fighter bomber exhibited in duxford , extremely rare plane that never went into full production

    The Army, facing technical challenges and supply chain issues, has decided to reprioritize its aviation assets, impacting the industry and raising questions about the future of aerial reconnaissance.

    RAF Tornado Aircraft Performing a Display” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Denver hosted the Army Aviation Association of America’s conference, where Jeff Schloesser, Bell’s executive vice president of strategic pursuits, disclosed that Bell’s 360 Invictus aircraft prototype had installed the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine when they were informed of the program’s termination.

    Army Lynx 9A Onboard a C17 Transport Aircraft” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Sikorsky faced a similar situation with its Raider X prototype. Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky’s president, indicated that they began repurposing the ITEP engine for tests on the existing UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter fleet, which is also manufactured by Sikorsky. Lemmo confirmed, “It performed well.

    Dumfries Aircraft Museum” by TrotterFechan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This is the first time it’s under a full load in a real aircraft turning rotors. We collected that data at low speed, we’re analyzing it and the Army’s authorized us to now run up to full speed on the ground to collect more data.”

    US ATTACKS UNMANNED PREDATOR HELLFIRE MISSILE” by poniblog is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The Army’s shift in aviation strategy is not without its detractors. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command, emphasized the remaining gap left by the FARA cancellation.

    Two-ship formation of F-35 Lighting II aircraft” by MultiplyLeadership is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    FARA was envisioned to create opportunities for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), which remains a priority for the Army, expected to transform battlefield dynamics with its exceptional speed and range. Richardson stated, “But how do we generate those opportunities without FARA?”

    Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron always ready at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma” by #PACOM is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The cancellation has drawn bipartisan concern from Connecticut’s congressional delegation, which had expected FARA to harness Sikorsky’s experience and contribute significantly to the U.S. defense capabilities.

    South Carolina National Guard receives the first five AH-64E model Apache attack helicopters” by SC Guard is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    They expressed disappointment and demanded an explanation from the Army on how the crucial aviation capabilities would be achieved without FARA. “We are extremely disappointed that the Army has decided to walk away from the FARA program,” the delegation said.

    South Carolina National Guard receives the first five AH-64E model Apache attack helicopters” by SC Guard is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Sikorsky and Bell have now redirected their resources towards alternative programs and potential international markets. Bell has shifted focus to the FLRAA program based on its V-280 Valor technology, with Schloesser noting a faster-than-expected pace thanks to the manpower redirected from FARA.

    South Carolina National Guard receives the first five AH-64E model Apache attack helicopters” by SC Guard is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Meanwhile, Sikorsky is pursuing opportunities for its X2 coaxial technology in international markets, including a next-generation helicopter for Italy and NATO’s Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capability.

    80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor” by Falcon_33 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The Army, meanwhile, has emphasized its commitment to modernization by reallocating funds to other aviation investments, including a contract for the procurement of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

    Apache Helicopter Lands at Camp Bastion Airfield, Afghanistan” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    “The Army is deeply committed to our aviation portfolio and to our partners in the aviation industrial base,” said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. This shift seems to be influenced by observations from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which underscores the changing nature of warfare and the potential of unmanned systems.

    Army Air Corps Lynx Mk9A Helicopter Over Afghanistan” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    As the dust settles on the FARA program, the defense industry and military strategists alike grapple with the implications of this cancellation. With the Army poised to invest in existing platforms and the integration of advanced technologies, this could be a defining moment in the evolution of military aviation.

    Apache and Sea Hawk joint fire exercise [Image 3 of 24]” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Nonetheless, the question, as Gen. Laura Richardson put it, remains: “Are we learning the right lessons from today’s conflicts and setting the joint force up for success into the future?”

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