The U.S. Army’s Cross-Functional Team on Future Vertical Lift is examining an acceleration of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, as the service on April 23 awarded five industry contracts for the development of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

The Army awarded five Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for Prototype Agreements for the aircraft design, build, and test of FARA to an AVX/L3 [LLL] team; Bell [TXT]; Boeing [BA]; Karem Aircraft; and Sikorsky [LMT].

AVX, which teamed with L3 to offer a coaxial-rotor compound helicopter, was awarded a $732 million contract. Bell’s pitch, based on the 525 commercial fly-by-wire helicopter technology, earned the company $790 million, according to the federal government’s contracting website. Boeing’s award came out to $772 million. Karem Aircraft, which specializes in high-efficiency tiltrotor technologies, merited $738 million.

Sikorsky, which is arguably the furthest ahead of the field in developing a FARA candidate with its operational S-97 Raider prototype compound helicopter, was awarded the largest share with $938.4 million.

The Army describes FARA as a “knife fighter” helicopter that will fill the gap left by retiring the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The service said that FARA “will be capable of achieving and sustaining overmatch against potential competitors and enduring asymmetric threats by closing or mitigating gaps in Army aviation attack and reconnaissance.”

Joseph Giunta, executive director for U.S. Army Contracting Command-Redstone, attributed the awarding of the five contracts two months earlier than scheduled to the congressional allowance for OTA and said that OTA “gives us flexibility, allowing us to be more responsive to the timelines in order to meet specific requirements.”

A downselect to two contractors may come early next year, and those two companies are scheduled to design competitive prototypes and then participate in a “government-sponsored fly off” in 2023, said Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the FVL cross-functional team director. The Army would then make FARA an official program of record.

A low-rate production decision is scheduled for 2028. But that may change, depending on the service’s priorities. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConnville, nominated to become the next Army Chief of Staff,  is an experienced AH-64 pilot and may want to accelerate the FVL timelines.

Gen. John M. Murray, the commander of U.S. Army Futures Command Commanding General, praised the FARA efforts of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, Army Contracting Command, and the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team.

“In just over a one-year period, the Army moved from the FARA ‘kick-off’ to now awarding prototype contracts — a process that traditionally takes three to five years to achieve,” he said. “While much work remains to be done, today’s announcement certainly highlights how the Army is already streamlining the modernization process to provide our Soldiers, and our future Soldiers, the equipment they need when they need it to win on future battlefields.”