The Sikorsky-Boeing consortium announced that it had submitted its Defiant X rotorcraft proposal “early” for the US Army’s FLRAA (Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft) program to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter. The UH-60, developed in the early 1970s, has been in service since June 1979.
The team continues to conduct flight tests and expand its SB-1 Defiant demonstrator, a compound co-axial helicopter upon which the proposed Defiant X is based. This test data correlated with the Defiant X virtual models and was included in their proposal to the US Army.
“Defiant X delivers speed where it matters, survivability, unsurpassed power, maneuverability, superior handling in any environment, and lower lifecycle costs – while operating in the same footprint as the Black Hawk . We are confident that Defiant X, supported by our longstanding Army industrial base suppliers, is the best choice for delivering overmatch on the Multi-Domain Operational battlefield in INDOPACOM and across the globe,” said the companies.
Defiant X will have a pilot flight control system that will allow more reliable and safer flights at low altitudes, barrier-rich environments, or in uncertain conditions. The Sikorsky-Boeing consortium competes against Bell’s V-280 Valor.
The Black Hawk is likely to remain in service for some time, but for missions in 2030 and beyond, the US army needs a better, faster, and much more advanced flying unit. FLRAA program wants the next-generation rotorcraft to have a maximum cruise speed of 280 knots (520 km/h). It also wants the aircraft to have an unrefuelled combat radius of 300 nmi (560 km) and a one-way unrefuelled range of at least 2,440 nmi (4,520 km).
The Defiant X has few subtle changes to its shape from the SB>1, among other things. The proposed helicopter’s exhaust outlets are covered with a shroud to keep the infrared signature as small as possible, a precaution against infrared-homing missiles. Also, the tail section (now V-shaped) and the landing gear (now with an extra tail wheel) were modified.
The US Army is expected to issue a production contract for FLRAA in 2022. It wants the new helicopter to be in service by 2030.