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Army Exec Defends FARA Cancellation

April 24, 2024

Army Exec Defends FARA Cancellation at Big Helicopter Show

From National Defense Magazine Online, Apr. 24 | Laura Heckmann

DENVER-- When the Army released its 2025 fiscal year budget request in March, it came on the heels of a dramatic shift in its aviation portfolio, including the cancellation of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. The decisions reflect a necessary shift in priorities that address “unacceptable risk” and a changing nature of warfare, a top Army official said.

“You all have seen the major changes in our fiscal year 2025 budget submission, ”Under secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo said, speaking in a recorded address at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual Aviation Mission Solutions Summit in Denver April 24. “And I think it’s important to discuss why we made these changes and more importantly, how they relate to future opportunities.”

The service faced “an unacceptable risk of closure of production lines for our Black Hawk engine and platforms. And we found that we needed to take action, ”he said. Ukraine also informed and illuminated the need to refocus priorities as warfare evolved to include unmanned systems and their increased role in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

The need to invest in teams of manned and unmanned systems and launch effects played into the “very difficult decision” to end the FARA development, “in order to take advantage of other investment opportunities critical to future battlefields and to maintain the strength and resilience of our industrial base.”

The aviation portfolio in the 2025 budget submission reflected this “rebound,” including$1.66 billion on procurement “that includes $200 million in research-and-development funding to mature our launch effects portfolio, to test with and to improve future tactical UAS programs, and to advance the UH-60Black Hawk platform.”

Some $25 million will go toward UH-60 enhancements, with plans to award in the second quarter of fiscal year 2025, $30 million to continue developmental test and integration the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System and a $35 million increase in research and development in the service’s launch and effects portfolio.

The Army spent$2.4 billion in its latest attempt to replace the Kiowa scout helicopter, which followed the failed $9 billion Comanche program and two other attempts that cost millions more before pulling the plug on the program.

While FARA got short changed, Camarillo highlighted the Army’s continued commitment to the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft platform, which he called “revolutionary. ”The service intends for the platform to be its next generation of vertical lift, assault and intra-theater aeromedical evacuation aircraft that will augment or replace a portion of the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter fleet. The program is approaching Milestone B in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024, he said, with critical design review coming in the first quarter of fiscal year 2025.

To put a positive spin on the FARA cancellation and the billions spent, Camarillo emphasized benefits gleaned from the program. He said it allowed for the capturing of “critical innovations that will benefit our entire aviation portfolio, even as we wind down our developmental efforts.”

Particularly, “this will show up in the areas of model-based systems engineering and modular building systems architectures,” he said. Additionally, a successful ground run of one of the prototype aircraft for FARA “will reduce risks on future Improved Turbine Engine integration efforts on other platforms.”

The Improved Turbine Engine program is an Army project to develop a General Electric T700replacement for the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache to improve fuel consumption, power and durability.

While emphasizing the Army’s need for a diverse mix of “transformational capabilities” that will “allow us to field systems of systems to fight and win well into the future, ”he also noted a reliance on industry to accomplish it, underscoring an earlier sentiment that its budget request had the industrial base in mind.

He highlighted areas industry will be necessary, including the integration of modular open systems approach solutions and digital engineering.

Army systems, including the aviation portfolio, are becoming increasingly software defined, “and we will need to update those software baselines continuously to keep our platforms and the subsystems that integrate into it effective.”

This will require maintaining form factors even as systems are upgraded but also designing software to minimize the need to retest, he said. A modular open system approach, which allows for modification, replacement, and removal of system components across a platform’s acquisition lifecycle, will be a “critical feature” that will keep projects like FLRAA development agile, he added.

Digital engineering will also play a “significant role moving forward in software-defined capabilities, allowing us to examine the trade-offs and impacts of upgraded hardware and software while minimizing the need to conduct physical tests.”

Changing software platforms will mean that the Army has to change bylaws, he said, “and the industry will need to adapt as we move forward.” Traditional procurement models are very different from an approach that keeps numerous vendors involved on an ongoing basis “and competes incremental upgrades that we buy in relatively small quantities.”

Changing models is not an opportunity to “squeeze the industrial base,” but a “necessity to ensure that we can adapt and get access to the latest technology to fight and win future wars.”

The 2025 budget requests “significant investments in technology and capabilities that we’ll need in the future” needs industry, he said. “You play a critical role in designing and building platforms and getting the right tools available to our soldiers. … And by undertaking this incredible transformation, you will always maintain the sacred trust with the soldier on the ground.”