Sikorsky's record-breaking X2 Demonstrator helicopter may be a museum piece these days, but the technology that went into it is still alive and kicking as the United Technologies subsidiary takes the wraps off the first of its two S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes. According to Sikorsky, this event marks the beginning of the armed reconnaissance ‘copter’s flight tests aimed at providing the US Army with its next generation of combat rotorcraft.

Unlike many military aircraft programs, the S-97 Raider is wholly funded by private investment with Sikorsky funding 75 percent of the costs and 53 principal suppliers providing the rest. It’s based on Sikorsky’s X2 technology, which features a pair of fixed coaxial rotors made of rigid, counter-rotating blades along with a six-blade pusher propeller for propulsion.

According to Sikorsky, this arrangement, along with fly-by-wire flight controls and active vibration control, provides not only a reduction in hub drag, but also a low acoustic signature, high cruise speed and improved high/hot hover performance.

Sikorsky intends the S-97 Raider as a multi-mission craft that will act as a replacement for the US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter or the Special Forces’ MH-6 Little Bird. Depending on how it’s equipped, it can be used for armed reconnaissance, light attack, light assault, search and rescue, or casualty evacuation.

To achieve this, the S-97 has a composite fuselage for a takeoff weight of 11,000 lb (4,990 kg) and is powered by a single General Electric YT706 engine putting out 2,600 bhp (1,900 kW). Its length of 35 ft (11 m) and rotor diameter of 34 ft (10 m) gives it a 15 percent smaller footprint than conventional helicopters, though it can still carry a crew of two seated side by side, along with six troops or extra fuel and munitions. The production version may also be capable of autonomous flight

Sikorsky says that the S-97 Raider has a cruising speed of 253 mph (407 km/h, 220 kn), which is more than double the speed of conventional helicopters, and pulls three G’s in the turns for greater agility. It has a range of 308 nmi (354 mi, 570 km), flight endurance of 2hr 40min, and a service ceiling of 10,000 ft (3,048 m).

The S-97 Raider can carry a selection of armaments, including a 50 caliber or 7.62 mm machine gun with 500 rounds, a 7-shot rocket pod with 2.75 in rockets, or Hellfire missiles.

"Today, Sikorsky unveiled the next generation of military rotorcraft, with capabilities and performance never seen before in our industry,” says Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. “Just four years ago, we announced plans to build the S-97 Raider and teamed with some of the best companies in the industry, understanding the need to ensure aircraft development would not falter as government defense budgets shrank in response to economic pressures. Sikorsky is proud of its leadership in this area, and of the leadership the S-97 Raider represents among the world’s military rotorcraft."

The aircraft will undergo initial flight tests in the coming months.

The video below shows the formal unveiling of the S-97 Raider.

Source: Sikorsky

View gallery - 8 images