FARA Enters Mix For MH-60 Gunship Replacement

Credit: Sikorsky, Bell FARA concepts

A gunship version of the Sikorsky MH-60 Black Hawk could be replaced by the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) official said May 19. 

A decision point is set for 2025 on how to replace the MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator (DAP), a subfleet of the MH-60M and MH-60L troop transports operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, said Geoff Downer, SOCOM’s program executive officer for Rotary Wing aircraft.

The unarmed troop transport version of the MH-60 is slated to be replaced by the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), Downer said. 

The options for FLRAA—namely, the Bell V-280 tiltrotor and Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X coaxial-compound helicopter—potentially offer greater speed than the competitors for FARA, which are the single-rotor Bell 360 Invictus and coaxial, compound Sikorsky Raider X. 

But SOCOM’s requirement to weaponize the MH-60L DAP replacement could erode the advantage of greater speed. 

“Speed is critical,” Downer said. “But by installing weapons on the outside of that aircraft, you’re going to lose that speed capability.”

Much still depends on which aircraft the Army selects in the FARA competition. A downselect is scheduled in 2024. A year later, SOCOM can choose between the winner of the FARA competition or continuing to sustain the MH-60L DAP fleet, Downder said. 

Regardless, SOCOM plans to start re-engining the MH-60L DAP fleet with the 3,000 shp. GE Aviation T901 turboshaft. 

For the MH-60M and MH-60Ls that perform the troop transport mission, the Army’s decision point comes at the beginning of 2024. If SOCOM doesn’t choose the FLRAA competition winner, a service life extension program for the MH-60M will be necessary, Downer said.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.