In a previous article, we covered Bell, Sikorsky, and Karem’s proposals for the Future Attack-Recon Aircraft (FARA). Now that leaves AVX and Boeing, who are considered at a disadvantage compared to the other competitors.
AVX has very little available history and has never previously produced an aircraft. While Karem also hasn’t produced an aircraft it has teamed with Northrop Grumman who remain leaders in aircraft design and production. AVX, by contrast, has teamed with L3Harris who while certainly a very capable manufacturer of subsystems has not produced a complete aircraft. To compensate for this lack of experience, AVX is taking the low-risk approach. While they are offering a coaxial rotor like Sikorsky they’re using nonrigid rotors like a conventional helicopter. Sikorsky’s rigid rotors have their issues, notably creating intense vibration and being difficult to manufacture.
While Sikorsky believes the coax rotors provide enough lift alone, AVX decided to include a wing similar to that proposed by the other single rotor competitors. The wing is paired with two ducted pusher propellers for forward thrust, mounted on the sides of the aircraft. This configuration creates much more drag than Karem or Sikorky’s designs which blend the pusher into the tail. Combined with the wing and tall rotor assembly the AVX design will be much more draggy than the others. If the Army decides speed is the priority, which it seems to be, AVX won’t stand a chance.
Currently, Boeing is still holding its cards close to the chest and refuses to detail its proposal to the public. In many ways, Boeing is the most important competitor given they produce the current gold standard in combat helicopters, the AH-64E Apache Guardian. Boeing has in previous years shown off wind tunnel tests of an AH-64F equipped with large wings and a pusher propeller. However, this aircraft is far too large for the 40ft. rotorspan requirements of FARA. As it stands all we can do is speculate until they make an official reveal.