The Army canceled the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, the service said in a statement released Thursday. The Defense Department had already spent $2 billion on this program as part of a major aviation overhaul.
Army officials planned for the scout helicopter to serve as a model of how to perform acquisitions for expensive and complex weapons programs and to finally provide a defendable airborne spying capability after decades of seeking such a solution, Defense News reported. The Army has already sunk “at least $2 billion” into the FARA program since 2018 and planned an additional $5 billion investment over the next five years, budget documents show, according to Defense News. But changing expectations of future warfare prompted the Army to divest from the FARA and other programs, according to a statement.
“To meet emerging capability requirements in a resource constrained environment, the Army today announced it will rebalance its aviation modernization investments across new and enduring platforms,” the Army said in the statement. (RELATED: Military Contradicts Previous Explanation Of How Drone That Killed US Troops Evaded Detection: REPORT)
“The Army will discontinue development of the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft at the conclusion of prototype activities,” the statement said.
As part of the overhaul, the Army also scrapped plans to upgrade the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, citing problems with cost overruns, and ditch the Raven and Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle fleets, the service said.
The Army instead will field UH-60 Mike model of the Black Hawk, currently in use by the active-duty force, for the National Guard instead of the planned Victor model to replace the aging Lima, according to the statement.
“These steps enable us to work with industry to deliver critical capabilities as part of the joint force, place the Army on a sustainable strategic path, and continue the Army’s broader modernization plan which is the service’s most significant modernization effort in more than four decades,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in the statement.
“We are learning from the battlefield–especially in Ukraine–that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” Army Chief of Staff, General Randy George, said in the statement. “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 theater and around the globe, by accelarating innovation, procurement and fielding of modern unmanned aircraft systems, including the Future Tactical Aircraft System, Launched Effects, and commercial small unmanned aircraft systems.”
A logical and clever decision. Crewed attack helicopters operating on the forward edge of the battle area are not survivable in the modern era. https://t.co/N60An3MWk8
— Mick Ryan, AM (@WarintheFuture) February 8, 2024
Retirement of the Vietnam-era OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter a decade ago left a gap in the Army’s ability to carry out armed reconnaissance, according to Defense News. In the interim, the service has relied on a combination of the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter working alongside Shadow drone — a less efficient and more expensive option.
The Army has already canceled two potential replacements for the Kiowa — the Comanche in 2004 and the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter in 2008 — at a cost of billions, according to Defense News.
But the Army maintains that cancelling the program does not represent a failure, Defense News reported.
“We are making great progress, we have momentum, the overwhelming majority of our signature modernization efforts are either on time or ahead of schedule and are starting to translate into capabilities,” Gen. James Rainey, the program’s acquisition chief, told Defense News.
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