Army Scraps Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Program
In a surprise decision, the U.S. Army Feb. 8 announced the cancellation of its multi-billion dollar Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft program.
Stratford-based Sikorsky was one of two finalists for the program, designed to develop and build a next-generation of armed, high speed scout helicopters.
The decision ends six years of development, with over $2 billion invested by the Army.
Sikorsky’s Raider X prototype was competing with Bell Textron’s 360 Invictus for the program, which Army officials said was “a top modernization priority” as recently as December.
In the statement announcing the FARA decision, Army officials said a mix of unmanned and space systems could achieve the program’s goals “more affordably and effectively.”
“We are learning from the battlefield—especially in Ukraine—that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” said Army Chief of Staff General Randy George.
Sikorsky officials issued a statement saying the company was “disappointed in the decision and will await a U.S. Army debrief to better understand its choice.”
“To provide the U.S. military and its allies a decisive advantage to deter conflict now and in the future, there must be a transformational improvement in rotorcraft systems capabilities—and a strong engineering workforce that can strengthen the nation’s leading edge in rotorcraft innovation,” the statement noted.
“With a $1 billion investment, X2 aircraft offer speed, range and agility that no other helicopter in the world can match.
“We remain confident in X2 aircraft for U.S. and international mission needs now and in the future.”
Connecticut’s Congressional delegation called for a detailed explanation from the Army and how “the exceptional and seasoned workforce at Sikorsky for generations to come” would be utilized.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Army has decided to walk away from the program,” lawmakers said in a joint statement.
“We have been told on multiple occasions by the Army that FARA was their number one priority. This is a complete reversal of that position.”
Black Hawk Investments
Army officials also announced an end to production of Sikorsky’s UH-60V Black Hawk variant.
However, officials did commit to a new contract for additional UH-60M Black Hawks and “new investments” in its current UH-60L Black Hawk fleet.
In 2022, the Pentagon selected Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program over the high-speed Defiant X prototype Sikorsky developed with Boeing.
At the time, Sikorsky president Paul Lemmo said the FLRAA decision “will not define the future of Sikorsky.”
“We still have significant business with the Army,” he said. “We look forward to them being a customer for us for many, many more years to come.”
Sikorsky is also building the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Sikorsky celebrated the 5,000th delivery of a Hawk model aircraft last January, with Lemmo saying he was confident the Black Hawk would remain a mainstay of the Army for the next four to five decades.
The Lockheed Martin subsidiary is one of the biggest employers in Connecticut, with nearly 8,000 of its 12,400 employees in the state.
Sikorsky, which marked its 100th anniversary last year, has approximately 250 suppliers across Connecticut and spends more than $300 million annually with those companies.
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima called the Army’s decision to scrap FARA “a major shock, particularly given the years of development and significant investment.”
“Nonetheless, Sikorsky and its supply chain have the resiliency, innovation, and ability to weather any challenge,” he said.
“They’ve endured COVID, global supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and soaring inflation in just the last four years and I am sure this setback will also be overcome.”
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