Sikorsky Aircraft powered on its S-97 Raider prototype on May 28 at the company’s development flight center in West Palm Beach, Florida, marking the successful installation of the avionics system and a major step toward completing the assembly of the new light tactical rotorcraft. A contender for the U.S. Army’s armed aerial scout program, the S-97 is a production-ready, “scaled-up version of the X2 demonstrator,” with both helicopters having contra-rotating rotor blades and a pusher propeller that enables high-speed forward flight, according to Sikorsky vice president of research and engineering Mark Miller.
While the X2 achieved a maximum cruise speed of 253 knots, the target cruise speed of the mostly composite S-97 is 220 knots. At 11,000 pounds mtow, the eight-place S-97 will be approximately twice as heavy as the X2, Miller noted. The first of two S-97 prototypes is currently being assembled at the Sikorsky Innovations facility in West Palm Beach. This aircraft is about halfway through the assembly process, with several key components in production and scheduled to be installed in the next few months, Sikorsky said.
Tests of the cockpit multifunction displays and control display unit (CDU) in late May were being followed last month by power-on tests of the remaining avionics, electrical and fly-by-wire flight control systems. Meanwhile, ground tests of the rotor and pusher propeller systems will start this summer, building up to an expected first flight by year-end. Sikorsky plans to demonstrate the helicopter’s capabilities to the U.S. military beginning next year.