Sikorsky emphasizes the flexibility of the Raider X rotorcraft

Assembly of Sikorsky’s competitive Raider X prototype for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program is now 90% complete. The compound coaxial helicopter with fly-by-wire controls is a semi-finalist in the FARA competition. It’s 20% larger than the 11,000-pound S-97 proof-of-concept vehicle that Sikorsky first flew in 2015. Sikorsky recently demonstrated the Raider X at a press conference at its test center of West Palm Beach, Florida.

The company said the use of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, digital tools and other advanced processes, has reduced aircraft component delivery times by more than 50 percent. . The maturation of this technology within Sikorsky’s parent company, Lockheed Martin, and its base of metallic and composite materials suppliers generates time, cost and weight savings across systems.

However, flight testing of the Raider X and its competitor, the Bell 360 Invictus, have been delayed until October 2023 (the start of fiscal year 2024) at the earliest due to delays with the upgraded GE turbine engine. T901 selected by the army. GE attributed the delay to Covid-induced supply chain disruptions.

The T901 is designed for use in FARA aircraft as well as being retrofittable in existing Black Hawk and Apache fleets. GE claims it offers 50% more power, 25% better fuel economy and 20% longer engine life than the T700 engine it will replace. The design combines the single-spool architecture of its current T700 with ceramic composites found on GE’s next-generation commercial jet engine designs, including the CFM LEAP, in a way that reduces weight and increases performance and efficiency. The engine is supplied to Sikorsky and Bell directly from the military.

While Bell is offering a conventional-looking design reminiscent of the RAH-66 Comanche program of the 1990s, Sikorsky is offering one based on its X2 technology that features a pair of rigid four-blade counter-rotating main rotors assisted by a thruster-mounted thruster. back. .

Key members of the Raider X team argue that the Sikorsky design offers greater stealth, speed, maneuverability, survivability, flexibility and mission growth potential than a conventional helicopter. In addition to the 20mm nose cannon, modular weapon launchers mounted behind the side-by-side seated pilots can be removed, making room for the transport of up to six soldiers. While the Army’s FARA requirements are for an aircraft with a sustained cruise speed of 180 knots and a top speed of 205 knots, Sikorsky believes it can significantly exceed that while still meeting overall program budget constraints. . “We really believe this will bring transformative capability to the military,” said Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s business manager for military programs and innovations.

“The reason we chose this design is that it’s really about operational flexibility for the commander,” Macklin said. “The [pilot] the side-by-side configuration we have chosen allows you to have a very large weapons bay. Despite the aircraft’s width, he said the overall design is a “very smooth and streamlined aircraft with very little drag. No wings or bumps or anything like that that will actually slow you down.

Using the S-97, Sikorsky demonstrated a variety of maneuvers that cannot be accomplished with a traditional helicopter, including high agility at low speeds, uniform body acceleration and deceleration, turn distance that is half that of conventional helicopters, best cruise speed over 200 knots, reverse thruster to slow descent, nose-down hover for more time on target and accurate weapons delivery, and thruster disengage for “whisper mode” to sneak up on targets or reduce noise in cruise flight.

Macklin said Sikorsky continues to expand the S-97’s flight envelope and incorporate useful data into the Raider X. To date, the S-97 has flown 180 hours at speeds up to 205 knots. . The aircraft also accumulated 503 ground hours and 2,850 software integration lab hours. “We view Raider as reducing risk for us. Every hour we fly it, data comes out of it that feeds into the design and answers a question as we build the [Raider X] competitive prototype [CP].”

By flying the S-97, “We can get our questions answered today without having to wait a year to fly the CP,” said Pete Germanowski, Sikorsky FARA chief engineer. “It allows us to make more informed decisions earlier in the life. [design] treat.”

The S-97, Raider X and larger Defiant X being developed for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft competition feature Sikorsky’s X2 technology which first flew on a technology demonstrator in 2008 and would reach a forward speed of 250 knots. “We wanted something fast, but we also wanted something quiet,” Macklin said. “When [the propulsor] is cut, it becomes very quiet, quieter than a Black Hawk.

Macklin also noted that Sikorsky has a “full range” of autonomous technology, from partial to full, including its Matrix system, which can be integrated into the aircraft to reduce pilot workload. “The military is going to decide what level of autonomy they want to settle on. It’s part of this whole digital network with drones and advanced drones to achieve that. [desired] deadlock level.

He also said the plane’s rigid main rotor system was designed for ease of maintenance. “There are about half the number of parts on this rotor head than there are on a Black Hawk. We don’t have blade dampers on an X2 aircraft,” which is the best maintenance driver on a Black Hawk. The design also eliminates one of the gearboxes needed to drive the tail rotor. The thruster itself is not essential for forward flight, takeoff or landing. In the event of a miss or shot, the aircraft can still achieve a forward speed of 160 knots.


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Steven L. Nielsen