Sikorsky carried out the successful maiden flight of the first S-97 Raider helicopter on May 22. The company says that this rigid coaxial-rotor prototype is designed to demonstrate a game-changing combination of manoeuvrability, hover ability, range, speed, endurance and survivability. The first flight was conducted at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center (DFC) in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the test programme for the two Raider prototypes is based.
“Sikorsky has a long tradition of pioneering new aviation technologies including the first practical helicopter. Today’s first flight of the S-97 Raider represents the latest leap forward for Sikorsky, our customers and the rotorcraft industry,” said Sikorsky President Bob Leduc. “The industry has demanded high performance and high value from the products that execute critical missions, and, today, the Raider helicopter has given us an exciting look at the future of vertical flight.”
During the first test flight, which lasted approximately one hour, Raider Pilot Bill Fell and Co-Pilot Kevin Bredenbeck took the aircraft through a series of manoeuvres 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 programme 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. With this first flight of the S-97 Raider helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft is proving once again that the tough challenges will always propel us forward.”
“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,” Miller said. “It is exciting that the S-97 RAIDER helicopter leverages a mix of evolutionary rotorcraft technologies that, when combined in this new way, results in revolutionary capability.”
Sikorsky launched the S-97 Raider helicopter programme in September 2010, with objectives of maturing the X2 rotorcraft configuration and demonstrating a helicopter that meets current US Army special operations and armed reconnaissance needs, while maturing technologies for Future Vertical Lift (FVL). The programme is 100% industry-funded by Sikorsky Aircraft and its 53 industry partners.
Based on the X2 coaxial rotor design, the Raider is capable of being developed into a unique multi-mission configuration that is able to carry six troops and external weapons. The coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and pusher propeller are expected to provide cruise speeds up to 240 knots (444km/h).
Armament options include Hellfire missiles, 2¾in rockets, .50 calibre gun and 7.62mm gun. The cabin can accommodate up to six people and the Raider’s dimensions will allow carriage of up to four of the type inside a C-17A Globemaster III. Maximum gross weight will be around 11,400lbs (5,170kg) and a range of around 320nm (600km) is envisaged.
The second Raider prototype is on track to complete final assembly in 2015. A demonstration tour of the Raider is planned for 2016. The company believes the Raider will be suitable for a variety of US Army and Special Operations roles in the future. Additionally, potential applications for the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps are also being explored. Alan Warnes