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Just days before the opening of the 2018 AUSA (Association of the U.S. Army) annual meeting, Sikorsky has revealed that its S-97 Raider has achieved more than 200 knots during tests from the company's West Palm Beach Development Flight Center. The feat was achieved by the second of two prototypes, which resumed Raider test activities in June after the first aircraft suffered a hard landing mishap in August 2017.
“The Sikorsky S-97 Raider flight-test program is exceeding expectations, demonstrating Raider's revolutionary speed, maneuverability, and agility,” said Tim Malia, Sikorsky director, Future Vertical Lift Light. “X2 technology represents a suite of technologies needed for the future fight, enabling the warfighter to engage in high-intensity conflict anytime, anywhere as a member of a complex, multi-domain team.”
Sikorsky experimental test pilot Bill Fell, a retired U.S. Army pilot, added, “It’s exciting to achieve these high speeds with X2 technology. It’s undeniably important for the warfighter to get to the mission fast. And once they get there, X2 technology provides the critical handling qualities that make the aircraft survivable, lethal, and agile.”
The X2 was developed and funded by Sikorsky—which was acquired by Lockheed Martin in November 2015—and other industry partners to demonstrate advanced rotorcraft technology, such as coaxial, counter-rotating rigid main rotors, low-drag rotor hubs, pusher propeller for thrust, fly-by-wire controls, and active vibration control. The X2 first flew in 2008 and was retired in 2011, but its technology features were crucial in shaping the S-97 Raider and also a larger design, the SB-1 Defiant.
Both of them are aimed at future U.S. helicopter requirements. Sikorsky has teamed with Boeing to offer the Defiant for the main joint-service Future Vertical Lift requirement, while the S-97 is seen as a potential candidate for the Army’s FARA armed scout requirement.
It is interesting to note that parent company Lockheed had a 200 plus-knot compound helicopter flying more than 50 years ago in the shape of the AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter, which first flew in September 1967. Fitted with a rigid main rotor, tail-mounted propeller, and wings, the Cheyenne reached a top speed of 215 knots in level flight. The AH-56 was canceled in 1972 with 10 prototypes built, while the Army’s requirement was reshaped as the Advanced Attack Helicopter program that ultimately resulted in the AH-64 Apache.