The US Army’s FARA program is moving forward as the first T901 engines reach competitors

The US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program is taking a leap forward as the first improved T901 turbine engines are delivered to the competitors’ Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X programs.

This breakthrough represents a transformative moment in the modernization of US military aviation, with potential implications for the Black Hawk and Apache fleets that last.

These engines have 3,000 shaft horsepower and will pave the way for ground operations scheduled for the second quarter of fiscal year 2024 and first flights expected in the fourth quarter of that year.

The T901 engine represents the Army’s first all-new aeroturbine engine since the T700 began powering Black Hawk helicopters in the 1970s.

The US Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program aims to modernize its helicopter fleet with two new rotorcraft platforms, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2030.

The significance of T901 extends beyond FARA. it is to replace the T700 engine currently used in the AH-64E Apache and UH-60M/V Black Hawk helicopters. This transition promises a boost in fuel efficiency, range and lost time, while reducing maintenance and upkeep costs.

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This is especially crucial for these aircraft, which have seen many improvements during their four decades of service, causing increased weight. The T901 is designed to restore lost payload capacity, particularly in challenging high temperature conditions.

The T901 engine features advanced technologies including additive manufacturing, ceramic matrix composites and traditional components to produce an additional 1,000 shaft horsepower while maintaining the same size and weight as its predecessor.

In addition, the T901 introduces predictive logistics through an integrated engine health management system, reducing the need for spare parts and enhancing component life.

The FARA program uses a two-phase competitive prototyping strategy to select a contractor to design and build the aircraft. The second phase continues with competitive prototype ground runs and joint flight performance demonstrations, influencing future program milestones.

Bell Textron and Sikorsky have received the T901 engine, allowing them to advance to the FARA competition. For Bell’s 360 Invictus, this marks a milestone towards ground runs and eventual first flight. Bell and Team Invictus have prepared their support infrastructure, supply chain and manufacturing hub for the following stages.

Now equipped with the T901 engine, Sikorsky is moving forward with installation on the RAIDER X aircraft. With its improved fuel efficiency and increased power, this engine also powers the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk fleet.

As we await the first flights of these prototypes in late 2024, the delivery of the T901 engine points to a future for Army aviation, ensuring that both piloted and autonomous capabilities are on the horizon. With increased speed, range and lethality, the FARA program fills a reconnaissance capability gap and enhances the Army’s readiness to accomplish missions.

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