The 360 Invictus FARA racer is assembled at Bell’s Amarillo’s production facility. (Photo: Bell)
With the approach of FARA Bell made a key change in the design of the 360 Invictus, which he hopes will lead to a competitive advantage over Sikorsky.
The move comes ten months after Bell said Shepard he will consider the application of “some minor changes” in the rotor, depending on the outcome of the engineering, production and development of weapons systems requirements set by US Army.
“We did a lot of tests [the ducted fan] and it fits our performance models, but a leadership decision was made to have a better path to growth, ”said Chris Geller, vice president of Bell 360.
“The change is really less resistance and more energy efficiency and will mean that we can achieve an absolute maximum output of 3000 horsepower per shaft [T901] engine. “
He added that the lower drag and lower weight of the tail structure would also mean longer downtime for the aircraft, giving it more payload or fuel capacity, and allowing it to work with the main rotor to provide speeds above 180kt requirement set for FARA competitors.
More than half of the production work of the 360 Invictus has been completed, and Bell is now entering the final assembly phase. “Many subsystems, wiring and vehicles are currently being included, the main gearbox is being tested and we will soon strive to install the main sub-components in the aircraft, including the cockpit,” Geller said.
“We still have about a year to continue with aircraft construction, but things are going well and we are fulfilling our main stages.”
Once the aircraft is fully assembled, it will undergo ground passes and system checks, while Bell will also continue to use a “zero plane” model operated by a system integration laboratory in Arlington, Texas.
Crucial to 360 Invictus progress, the lab will be used to develop control laws and helicopter flight parameters, according to Geller.
“We will be able to inject bugs [in the lab] to see how the plane will react in case of a problem and we will test standard and emergency procedures, “he explained.
One of the main advantages of this approach is that it reduces the program risk for 360 Invictus by performing work that would otherwise have to be completed on the aircraft itself.
“We are expecting the first flight in 2023 and then we will implement a flight test program with the army to achieve everything [FARA] key performance parameters they want to see, ”Geller said. “We definitely want to demonstrate high speed, maneuverability and capabilities, as well as the low cost of this platform.”
Army sets 2023 as time frame for FARA take-off phase between 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X coaxial helicopter.
These competitive prototypes will not have integrated weapons during the take-off phase, as the military will mainly assess the design of the aircraft and assess whether the speed and payload requirements are met, according to Geller.
FARA’s terms and conditions include competitors providing a 20-millimeter cannon in the design of its aircraft and an integrated ammunition launcher compatible with Air Launched Effects (ALE).