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US Army cancels FARA as it pursues less expensive airborne recce

The US Army has announced it will discontinue development of the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA – essentially a very high-tech OH-58 Kiowa helicopter replacement) at the conclusion of prototyping activities later this year. It will also phase out the Shadow and Raven Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAV).

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

“I am confident the Army can deliver for the Joint Force, both in the priority theatre and around the globe, by accelerating innovation, procurement and fielding of modern unmanned aircraft systems, including the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, Launched Effects, and commercial small unmanned aircraft systems.”

Warfighting is changing more rapidly than it has in decades, the US Army notes, and it is continuously transforming based on lessons learned and a sober assessment of the modern battlefield.

In reviewing the FARA program, the Army assessed that the increased capabilities it offered could be more affordably and effectively achieved by relying on a mix of enduring, unmanned, and space-based assets.

However, the Army will continue investment in the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft – essentially the Blackhawk helicopter replacement – while making new investments in UH-60 Blackhawk, and CH-47F Block II Chinook. The Army will increase investments in cutting-edge, effective, capable and survivable unmanned aerial reconnaissance capabilities and the procurement of commercial small unmanned systems. These investments will be continuous and agile to stay ahead of emerging battlefield requirements.

As part of this transformational rebalancing, the Army will:

  • End development of the Army’s new manned reconnaissance helicopter, the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), at the conclusion of FY24 prototyping activities.
  • End production of the UH-60V version of the Blackhawk, which extends service life of existing airframes by 10 years, after FY24 due to significant cost growth.
  • Delay entering production of the Improved Turbine Engine (ITEP) to ensure adequate time to integrate it with AH-64 and UH-60 platforms.
  • Phase out operations and sustainment of the legacy Shadow and Raven unmanned aircraft systems.

These decisions free up resources to make critical new investments in Army aviation. Going forward, the Army will:

  • Commit to a new multi-year contract to procure the UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter – a new airframe with a 20+ year service life – and invest in upgrades for the Blackhawk.
  • End uncertainty over the future of the CH-47F Block II Chinook by formally entering it into production, with a path to full rate production in the future.
  • Continue the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program as planned, ensuring the Army remains on a path to field the first operational unit in FY30.
  • Increase investments in research and development to expand and accelerate the Army’s unmanned aerial reconnaissance capability including future tactical unmanned aerial systems and launched effects.

Although Army leadership had to make difficult tradeoffs between programs, this plan will allow the force to continue building modern capability across its aviation portfolio while funding other critical priorities in future budgets, says the US Army.

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