The compound Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant helicopter broke the 200-knot speed barrier earlier this month at Sikorsky's flight test center in West Palm Beach, Florida, achieving a forward speed of 205 knots. A Sikorsky spokesman said the aircraft, one of two finalists for the Army’s future long-range assault aircraft (FLRAA) program, should reach its target speed of 250 knots within the next few months. Because the aircraft used less than 50 percent of its propulsor power, the development team expressed confidence that the aircraft could reach—and perhaps exceed—that goal.
The SB-1 is competing against Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor, which exceeded 300 knots forward speed in level flight last year. Both the Sikorsky-Boeing team and Bell were awarded Army competitive demonstration and risk reduction contracts to continue aircraft development in March. The Army said it plans to select a finalist sometime in 2022.
Sikorsky and Bell are also competing for the Army’s future attack and reconnaissance aircraft (FARA) program. Sikorsky is fielding a technologically similar design to the SB-1, a coaxial main rotor system mated to an aft propulsor, in a smaller package it is designating as the “Raider-X,” while Bell is offering a conventional design it calls the “Invictus 360.”
Earlier this month Bell announced its development team for that program. Members include: Collins (avionics, mission systems), GE (T901 engine), ITT-Enidine (vibration eliminators), L3 Harris (cameras, sensors), Parker Lord (rotor dampers, main rotor CF bearing, tail rotor torsion strap, active vibration control), Mecaer (retractable tail gear), Moog (flight control computer/electronics, software, flight control actuation, fly-by-wire components), and TRU (simulators).
The Army plans to select a FARA finalist in 2023 and field the aircraft by 2028.