3 octobre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

Bell dévoile le 360 Invictus, un nouvel hélicoptère d’attaque et de reconnaissance pour l’US Army

PAR LAURENT LAGNEAU

Outre le renouvellement de ses véhicules blindés, confié à la « Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team », l'US Army a également lancé le plan Future Vertical Lift, lequel doit lui permettre de remplacer une grande partie de ses voilures tournantes ères à l'horizon 2028/30.

En avril, dans le cadre du Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft [FARA], un sous-programme de ce plan, l'US Army a pré-sélectionné cinq industriels qui devront chacun présenter un prototype. Ont donc été retenus Karem Aircraft [associé à Raytheon et Northrop Grumman], Boeing, AVX Aircraft [avec L3], Sikorsky [groupe Lockheed-Martin] et Bell [filiale de Textron].

Selon les spécifications de l'US Army, ce futur hélicoptère d'attaque doit loger dans la soute d'un avion de transport C-17, voler à la vitesse de 200 noeuds, présenter une architecture modulaire, mettre en oeuvre des drones et se passer, le cas échéant, d'équipage pour certaines missions, en particulier dans les environnements fortements contestés. Et son coût devra être « abordable ».

Depuis, et alors que Boeing et Karem Aircraft sont encore discrets sur les intentions, AVX Aircraft a présenté le concept Compound Coaxial Helicopter [CCH], qui repose sur un hélicoptère doté de commandes de vol électriques, d'un rotor contrarotatif et de deux turbines. Quant à Sikorsky, il mise sur son S-97 Raider, également muni d'un rotor contrarotatif, complété par une hélice propulsive.

De son côté, le 2 octobre, soit après avoir annoncé un partenariat avec Collins Aerospace pour le système de mission et l'avionique, Bell a levé le voile sur le « 360 Invictus » [tiré du mot latin signifiant « invicible » ou du poème du même nom signé William Ernest Henley?].

Reprenant des technologies développées pour le Bell 525 Relentless, notamment au niveau du rotor, cet appareil serait en mesure de voler à une vitesse supérieure à 185 noeuds [cela dépendra de sa configuration]. Côté armement, il sera équipé d'un canon de 20 mm et pourra emporter des missiles air-sol. Son rayon d'action devrait être de l'ordre de 135 nautiques, avec la possibilité de rester 90 minutes sur zone.

« La lutte multi-domaines sera complexe et notre équipe fournit une solution hautement performante et à faible risque pour répondre en toute confiance aux exigences opérationnelles avec une flotte durable », a fait valoir Vince Tobin, le directeur des affaires militaires chez Bell.

En effet, disposant de commandes de vol électriques, le Bell 360 Invictus fera appel à des technologies déjà éprouvées ainsi qu'à quelques innovations issues de programmes civils et militaires. Procéder de la sorte permet ainsi à l'industriel d'être très compétitif en terme de coûts, l'US Army ayant fixé à 30 millions de dollars le prix unitaire de ses futurs hélicoptères d'attaque et de reconnaissance.

Les autres constructeurs qui ne l'ont pas encore fait devraient prochainement abattre leurs cartes, la prochaine phase du programme FARA devant commencer en 2020, après la sélection de deux concepts.

http://www.opex360.com/2019/10/03/bell-devoile-le-360-invictus-un-nouvel-helicoptere-dattaque-et-de-reconnaissance-pour-lus-army/

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