The Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant helicopter has taken to the air for the first time at the Sikorsky facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Designed to have twice the speed and range of conventional rotorcraft, the demonstrator aircraft is part of the US Army's Future Vertical Lift program and will be used to develop the next generation of assault and transport helicopters for the US Army and US Marine Corps.

Developed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky, the Defiant is based on Sikorsky's X2 platform and is a joint multi-role medium-class demonstrator that features a lift system using two coaxial main rotors and a rear-mounted pusher propulsor to solve the problem of retreating blade stall. By using two main rotors that spin in opposite directions, the Defiant counters the tendency of helicopter blades to generate uneven lift forces at high speeds, which severely limits the capabilities of current rotorcraft.

The Defiant is taking part in the US Army's Joint Multi-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program and Lockheed and Boeing say that Thursday's flight is a significant milestone. Utility helicopters based on the Defiant are expected to enter service in the early 2030s and will provide the US Army and Marines with more cost effective helicopters that can fly longer and faster. They will also be more maneuverable and enjoy a greater degree of survivability as they are used to create gaps in complex Anti-Access Area Denial systems against near-peer adversaries.

"Defiant is designed to fly at nearly twice the speed and has twice the range of conventional helicopters while retaining the very best, if not better low-speed and hover performance of conventional helicopters," says Dan Spoor, vice president, Sikorsky Future Vertical Lift. "This design provides for exceptional performance in the objective area, where potential enemy activity places a premium on maneuverability, survivability and flexibility. We are thrilled with the results of today's flight and look forward to an exciting flight test program."

The video below shows the Defiant taking to the air for the first time.

View gallery - 3 images