The day before yesterday, impressive photos of the futuristic Bell 360 Invictus combat helicopter appeared online. What kind of vehicle is it and what is it for?
The Bell 360 Invictus is a flying prototype of the US Army’s new light multirole helicopter, one of two participants in the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, after which the Pentagon should finally receive a replacement for the Bell OH-58 Kiowa light reconnaissance helicopter which has been in service since 1966.
The first phase of the FARA program, which began in April 2019, involved five manufacturers – AVX Aircraft (along with L3Harris Technologies), Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky Aircraft (i.e. Lockheed Martin). In the second phase, which started in March 2020, the Pentagon chose two candidates who received $735 million each to create a flying prototype. These helicopters became the Bell 360 Invictus and the equally futuristic Sikorsky Raider X.
Flight tests of both vehicles should begin in November 2022 (there is information about the transfer of tests to 2023) and according to insiders, the Bell 360 Invictus is already 90% ready for takeoff.
The Bell 360 Invictus is based on the basic design and technology of the Bell 525 Relentless transporter. The vehicle is designed for 2 crew members, has a main gas turbine engine General Electric T901 with a capacity of 3,000 hp. (2,200 kW) and auxiliary gas turbine unit Pratt & Whitney PW207D1 with a capacity of 586 hp. (439 kW). The expected speed of the helicopter should be 330 km/h.
The Bell 360 Invictus is intended to perform the role of a light attack helicopter and reconnaissance. Judging by the photo, the vehicle has a front three-barreled automatic gun in the nose turret (it appears to be a 20mm XM301), and two pylons with four suspension points on each. It seems that both the landing gear and the pylons (!) are hidden in the helicopter body during flight.
Well, hopefully this time the Pentagon will find a replacement for the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, because three previous programs similar to FARA have failed.
Who will you root for? Bell 360 Invictus or Sikorsky Raider X?