Sikorsky Aircraft named 35 suppliers participating in an industry-funded effort to build two prototype S-97 Raider helicopters for evaluation by the U.S. military. The Raider is a follow-on to the company’s X2 technology demonstrator with coaxial contra-rotating main rotors and a pusher propeller.
Sikorsky said it will invest about 75 percent of the Raider program’s expected cost, with suppliers investing 25 percent. Last June, Sikorsky and General Electric signed a teaming agreement under which GE Aviation will provide its CT7-8 engine for the Raider.
The Raider has been advanced as a candidate for the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout requirement to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Sikorsky contends the new design will provide dramatic improvements over conventional helicopters in speed, maneuverability, range, endurance, altitude and hover efficiency. The target cruise speed is 220 knots, with dash speeds up to 240 knots. However, last October the U.S. Army said it cannot afford a new-build program, and would evaluate essentially commercial off-the-shelf offerings for the improved scout helicopter. The service said its aim is to sustain and modernize its current fleet and invest toward a joint multirole helicopter in 2030.
Doug Shidler, Sikorsky’s Raider program manager, said Sikorsky chose the suppliers (most of them American companies) based on the maturity of their products and technologies. “Product maturity will enable Sikorsky to demonstrate the Raider helicopter’s flight and aerodynamic performance in a simulated military environment starting in 2014, and ultimately bring X2-designed helicopters to future customers quickly” and at an affordable price, Shidler said.
The X2 technology demonstrator logged approximately 22 hours in the air, and flew for the last time last July at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Fla., flight test center. In September 2010 the X2 achieved a maximum cruise speed of 253 knots in level flight, setting an unofficial helicopter speed record. Started in 2005, the X2 was a $50 million effort.
The single-engine Raider will have a maximum takeoff weight of approximately 11,000 pounds and feature side-by-side seating for two pilots. The aircraft will be capable of hosting a variety of sensors and externally mounted weapons, with the flexibility to carry additional fuel and ammunition for extended missions. In a light utility or special operations configuration, the helicopter’s cabin will carry up to six troops.