Sikorsky Mulls Civil Version of S-97 Raider

 - May 15, 2014, 2:50 PM
The first of two Sikorsky S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes is taking form at the company’s rapid prototyping facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. Seen here in February, the first fuselage has since had its landing gear and rear doors installed. While primarily being developed for the U.S. Army’s armed aerial scout program, Sikorsky said it plans to produce a civil version of the S-97 that could be used for offshore oil and VIP transport, as well as search and rescue operations. (Photo: Sikorsky Aircraft)

Sikorsky Aircraft vice president of research and engineering Mark Miller confirmed that the Stratford, Conn.-based helicopter manufacturer is considering plans to develop a civilian version of the S-97 Raider, which is a contender for the U.S. Army’s armed aerial scout program. The S-97, he said, is a production-ready, “scaled-up version of the X2 demonstrator,” with both helicopters having contrarotating rotor blades and a pusher propeller that enables high-speed forward flight. A civil variant of the S-97 would be “ideal” for offshore oil, search and rescue and VIP transport, according to 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, Fla., where a nearly complete fuselage was shown to journalists last week. Power-on tests are expected to start by the end of this month, while the rotor and pusher propeller systems will begin ground testing this fall. First flight is expected by year-end.


After 40 years of analyzing new products at Sikorsky Aircraft, Vertical Aviation Solutions president Vaughn Askue, cautions,“It’s an article of faith that speed is of value in the battlespace . . . . If these aircraft get too expensive, you can’t buy very many, and your resources are degraded because you can’t field too many at one time.” He adds,“The military is willing to pay to go fast; I don’t think the civil world is.”

“The military is willing to pay to go fast; I don’t think the civil world is.”

Someone should tell that to Cessna, which to date has delivered 330 Citation Xs – an aircraft with a premium price tag due to its higher speed. This demonstrates that the civil world will indeed pay a premium for speed.