Just over six months since Sikorsky opened the curtains to unveil its S-97 Raider helicopter featuring X2 technology, the first flight of the rigid coaxial rotor helicopter prototype was successfully conducted at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, FL, where the two-prototype Raider helicopter test program is based.
During the May 22 flight, which lasted approximately one hour, Raider pilots took the aircraft through a series of maneuvers designed to test the aircraft’s hover and low-speed capability. With first flight achieved, the Raider helicopter now moves into more progressive flight testing to demonstrate key performance parameters critical to future combat operations including armed reconnaissance, light assault, light attack, and special operations.
The Raider helicopter program is part of the portfolio of Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development organization within Sikorsky Aircraft’s Research & Engineering division.
“It is the Sikorsky Innovations charter to identify the toughest challenges in vertical flight, and to demonstrate solutions to them,” said Mark Miller, Vice President of Research & Engineering. “Getting an all-new aircraft into flight, especially one with game-changing capabilities, is a remarkable feat. This exemplifies the very DNA of Sikorsky Aircraft: to explore, to challenge, to pioneer, and in doing so, to ultimately change what is possible for our customers.”
Sikorsky launched the S-97 Raider helicopter program in September 2010, with objectives of maturing the X2 rotorcraft configuration and demonstrating a helicopter that meets current U.S. Army special operations and armed reconnaissance needs, while maturing technologies for Future Vertical Lift (FVL). According to Miller, the S-97 Raider helicopter leverages a mix of evolutionary rotorcraft technologies “that, when combined in this new way, results in revolutionary capability.”
The program is 100% industry-funded by Sikorsky Aircraft and its 53 industry partners, with Sikorsky providing 75% of the investment, with the partners providing the rest. (For more background on the S-97, visit http://articles.sae.org/13583/.)
Based on the X2 coaxial rotor design, the single-engine Raider helicopter is capable of being developed into a unique multi-mission configuration that is able to carry six troops and external weapons. The fly-by-wire helicopter will feature coaxial counter-rotating rigid main rotor blades for lift and forward flight, and a pusher propeller for high-speed acceleration and deceleration. The latter feature contributes to it achieving cruise speeds up to 220 knot, more than double the speed of conventional helicopters. Dash speeds are expected to be up to 240 knot or higher. The aircraft features a single-piece composite airframe and a maximum gross weight of slightly more than 11,000 lb.
“With this flight, we have started the demonstration of solutions to not only near-term capability gaps but also solutions for future vertical lift needs,” said Samir Mehta, President of Sikorsky Defense Systems & Services. “With the Raider’s combination of speed, maneuverability, and acoustic signature, Sikorsky Aircraft is positioned to provide the military with essential mission-specific capabilities.”
In March, final assembly began on the second Raider helicopter prototype, which is on track to be completed this year. A demonstration tour of the Raider helicopter is planned for 2016