Army scraps future scout helicopter program in multibillion-dollar shake-up of aviation program

A multibillion-dollar program to field the Army‘s next-generation scout helicopter is going on the chopping block as part of changes to manned and unmanned Army aviation systems.

On Thursday, the Army said it’s canceling the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program in order to “meet emerging capability requirements in a resource-constrained environment.”

The service also will end production of the costly UH-60V version of the Black Hawk helicopter, extending service life of existing airframes by 10 years, and will phase out the Shadow and Raven unmanned aerial systems.

Gen. Randy George, the Army‘s chief of staff, said the war between Ukraine and Russia has demonstrated that aerial reconnaissance has changed in recent years.

“Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching and more inexpensive than ever before,” he said in a statement. “I am confident the Army can deliver for the Joint Force, both in priority theater and around the globe, by accelerating innovation, procurement and fielding of modern unmanned aircraft systems.”

The decision to close the FARA program will free up resources for the Army to make other investments in aviation, including for a multiyear contract to buy the UH-60M Black Hawk, a new airframe with a service life of more than 20 years, and begin production of the CH-47F Block II Chinook heavy lift helicopter.

The Connecticut-based Sikorsky aircraft company and its Lockheed Martin parent firm said FARA’s X2 system offers speed, range and agility that no other helicopter in the world could match.

“We remain confident in X2 aircraft for U.S. and international mission needs now and in the future,” Sikorsky officials said. “We are disappointed in this decision and will await a U.S. Army debrief to better understand its choice.”

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the steps the service took will let it work with the defense industry to deliver “critical capabilities” as part of the joint force and will place the Army on a sustainable strategic path while pursuing the service’s “most significant modernization efforts in more than four decades.”

Rep. Rob Wittman, Virginia Republican, said the Army‘s significant changes to its aviation program require “serious scrutiny” from Congress. As chairman of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, he aims to hold a hearing in the spring on the matter.

“I plan on reviewing how the Army plans to address the service’s aviation attack and reconnaissance mission set without FARA,” he said in a statement.

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