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Bell 360 Invictus awaiting engine for scheduled 2023 first flight

The Bell 360 Invictus demonstrator, pictured in July 2021 at the halfway mark of construction, is now past 95% completion. (Bell)

The Bell 360 Invictus demonstrator, Bell Helicopters' entry for the US Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) contest, is 95% complete, according to Keith Flail, Bell's director of future vertical lift.

The helicopter is scheduled to begin ground testing in March–May 2023, with first flight scheduled for later in the same year – pending delivery of its General Electric (GE) T901 engine from the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Testing of the lone Bell 360 is ongoing at Bell's Amarillo factory in Texas and Fort Worth facilities. “All the gearbox testing” is effectively finished, Flail told reporters during a 27 January briefing in Fort Worth. “The [rotor] blades, they're the actual flight blade for the aircraft, not the initial process verification blades. We've gone through similar processes that we use for production programmes on all the respective subsystems by applying power to the aircraft, making sure that the electrical [system], the cockpit, the displays – all those functionals, if you will, that we can do on the aircraft, short of the engine being installed.”

The US Army requires that both FARA competitors, Bell's 360 Invictus and Sikorsky's Raider X, fly with a single 3,000 hp GE T901 from the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). Although neither competitor has received their engines, Bell has been testing its fit with a nonfunctional, 3D-printed engine mock-up. No major design changes resulted from that testing, the company said.

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