Sikorsky's S-97 Raider prototype helicopter, which was revealed to the world last year, has taken to the air for the first time. Based on the design of the X2 Technology Demonstrator, the S-97 Raider features coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher propeller and is intended as a multi-mission aircraft to replace the US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter and the Special Forces’ MH-6 Little Bird.
While Sikorsky anticipates it will be capable of cruise speeds of up to 240 knots (276 mph, 444 km/h), and the X2 demonstrator achieved a speed of 250 knots (288 mph, 463 km/h) in 2010, the S-97 Raider's first flight was limited to a series of maneuvers intended to test its hover and low-speed capabilities. With pilot Bill Fell and co-pilot Kevin Bredenbeck at the controls, the maiden flight at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center (DFC) in Florida lasted around an hour.
Having successfully completed its first flight, the S-97 Raider prototype will now move onto more progressive flight testing intended to demonstrate capabilities critical to a variety of potential combat missions, including armed reconnaissance, light assault, light attack and special operations.
Sikorsky has a demonstration tour planned for the S-97 Raider in 2016. A second prototype is also currently under construction, and is set to be completed by the end of this year.