CT delegation decries Army decision to cancel development of new, high-tech scout helicopter
Connecticut's entire congressional delegation says it is disappointed with the U.S. Army’s decision to cancel its effort to develop a new, high-tech armed scout helicopter.
Sikorsky, based in Stratford, had been competing for what was expected to be a significant, long-term contract.
Army officials announced Thursday the agency will discontinue development of its Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, saying modern battlefields are changing and that the technology it's investing in needs to change, too. That's leading to a shift toward unmanned aircraft.
“We are learning from the battlefield — especially in Ukraine — that aerial reconnaissance has fundamentally changed,” Gen. Randy George, the Army's chief of staff, said 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."
Drones have been used extensively by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.
In a joint statement, Connecticut lawmakers said they want a more detailed explanation for the Army's decision to discontinue the program.
The program began in 2018, and Sikorsky was selected as a finalist for its Raider X prototype.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Army has decided to walk away from the FARA program. We have been told on multiple occasions by the Army that FARA was their number one priority. This is a complete reversal of that position," lawmakers said.
Sikorsky also says it's disappointed. The company, a major employer in southern Connecticut, is hoping for a U.S. Army debriefing to get more information.
“With a $1 billion investment, X2 aircraft offer speed, range and agility that no other helicopter in the world can match," Sikorsky said in a statement. "We remain confident in X2 aircraft for U.S. and international mission needs now and in the future."
Army officials say they could use some of the money freed up on other programs, including Black Hawk helicopters. Black Hawks are made by Sikorsky.
In 2022, the company lost out on a multibillion-dollar contract to build a replacement for the Black Hawk helicopter.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, expressed his disappointment with the Army's decision in an interview with Connecticut Public and CT Mirror on Friday.
“The personal assurance and commitment from the secretary of the Army that they are going to reinvest and produce more Black Hawk helicopters at Sikorsky, I think, provides a sliver of hope,” Blumenthal said. “But it's still a blow because Sikorsky was assured and we were as well that the Raider X prototype will go forward. And then there was a disappointment there.”
Blumenthal called the Army's decision a "mistake."
"The mistake made by the Army here is more than just a jeopardy to Sikorsky’s workplace, which is the finest in the world," he said. "It’s also potentially a strategic blunder for the Army.”
Speaking to reporters Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont said he didn’t like the situation in part because Sikorsky was "at the front of the line” to get the Army contract.
Lamont said he spoke to the CEO of Sikorsky, which employs thousands of people in Connecticut. Hundreds of businesses are suppliers to the Lockheed Martin-owned company.
“Near term, it’s not going to impact jobs," Lamont said. "They're looking at the next upgrade of the Black Hawk helicopters. There's a lot of demand there for the foreseeable future.”
Connecticut Public/CT Mirror's Lisa Hagen and Connecticut Public's Patrick Skahill and Eddy Martinez contributed to this report.