For the first time, Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft’s S-97 RAIDER helicopter has shown off its agility in two demonstration flights at the company’s test center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama.
The events offered a glimpse at Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company’s bid for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, which is part of the US Army‘s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) effort to revolutionize its aircraft fleet. On April 13 and 15 at Redstone, Sikorsky’s Christiaan Corry and Bill Fell piloted the S-97 RAIDER flight routines that highlighted both low-level helicopter maneuverability and high-speed capability.
The S-97 RAIDER is a compound helicopter based on the company’s X2 technology demonstrator. Its design includes variable speed rigid coaxial main rotors and a variable-pitch pusher propeller, making the S-97 a compound helicopter. Like the X2, it has fly-by-wire control and dynamic anti-vibration actuators to cancel out shaking. The S-97 will be capable of carrying up to six passengers, in addition to a flight crew of two in a side-by-side cockpit.
Powered by a 2,600 shp (1,900 kW) General Electric YT706 turboshaft, S-97s can reach a cruising speed of 250 mph (400 km/h), offers a range of 350 miles (570 km), and a 2-hour 40-min of endurance with external weapons. It also provides commanders with a flow of maintenance data and self-diagnosis. With Sikorsky’s Fleet Decision Tool, commanders can aggregate data from individual aircraft based on operational requirements, aircraft health assessment, and maintenance flow to ensure they’re optimizing readiness and aircraft availability across the entire fleet.
“Flying RAIDER continues to amaze me,” said Corry, a former U.S. Marine with more than 4,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft, including the CH-53E, CH-53K, and others. “The combination of the coaxial rotors and the propulsor is really the enablers for this transformational technology. As we demonstrated today, in low-speed flight, we are as capable as a conventional helicopter, but when we engage the prop, we are able to operate in a whole new way – it’s much more like flying an airplane.“
Sikorsky has been flying and testing X2 Technology for more than a decade, accumulating nearly 500 hours on its X2 Technology testbeds and aircraft, including the X2 Technology Demonstrator, RAIDER, and DEFIANT.