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Army Cancels Key Aviation Programs

02-13-24 WR FARA
02-13-24 WR FARA
Washington Report

The Army last week cancelled two programs that will significantly affect Army National Guard aviation modernization: the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, better known as FARA, and the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

FARA was meant to fill Army aviation’s No. 1 mission gap: armed reconnaissance.

Since the retirement of the Vietnam-era OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter 10 years ago, the service has relied on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter paired with the Shadow unmanned aircraft system to perform the armed reconnaissance mission.

The service had already spent at least $2 billion on the program and had requested another $5 billion for the next five years, according to budget documents.

Army officials said the service would rely more on unmanned aerial systems in the future.

"We are learning from the battlefield —  especially in Ukraine—that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed," said Gen. Randy A. George, the Army chief of staff, in a 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."

Army Guard units figured to be in the fielding plans for the FARA. They were going to be the primary recipients of the Victor-model Black Hawk.

The Victor is a rebuilt UH-60L with a fully digital avionics suite.

The Army’s Black Hawk modernization plan called for the Army Guard to receive nearly 400 Victors. The Army Guard is authorized more than 900 Blacks Hawks. Newer UH-60Ms would comprise the rest of the requirement.

Active-component Army units fly mostly M models and were not scheduled to receive many Victors.

Army officials attributed the cancellation of the Victor program to "significant cost growth."

To date, Army Guard aviation units in Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have received only a combined total of 44 UH-60Vs, according to Army Guard state aviation officers.

Plans now call for 75 UH-60Vs to be fielded to the Guard before the end of the program.

NGAUS believes the Army now needs to modernize the Army Guard with a pure fleet of new Mike-model Black Hawks.

The Army statement committed the service to a "new multiyear contract to procure the UH-60M."

However, specific plans to replace the Victors in the Army Guard modernization plan with more Mikes have not been announced.

NGAUS has had concerns for years with cost overruns and delays in the Victor program. It also does not have the full capabilities of the Mike.

Association officials and the NGAUS Aviation Task Force met with Army officials, including the vice chief of staff, in March 2021 at the National Guard Memorial to express those concerns.

Retired Maj. Gen. Francis M. McGinn, the new NGAUS president, said the association is ready to work with Army officials on a new plan to modernize the Army Guard Black Hawk fleet.

The Army statement also said the service plans to "phase out operations and sustainment" of the legacy RQ-7B Shadow and RQ-11 Raven unmanned aircraft systems.

The Army Guard operates both systems.

— By John Goheen