History and Development
In March 2010, the Armed Aerial Scout program made a request for information for an advanced helicopter, and the result was the Sikorsky S-97 Raider as proposed by Sikorsky. Four years later, the company finally unveiled the first full production model of the groundbreaking scout and attack helicopter in the company’s facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The objective set for the new aircraft is to replace the army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. However, specialists think that if the manufacturer’s claims about the Sikorsky S-97 Raider capabilities are true, it is almost certain that this helicopter’s reach will grow to cover a much wider audience. For instance, if the Sikorsky S-97 Raider proves useful, it might be used to replace other US Army military helicopters such as the MH-6 Little Bird used by the U.S. Special Operations Command. In addition to its expected military roles, The Sikorsky S-97 Raider could also be adapted to carry out civilian missions.
Cost of the Sikorsky S-97 Raider
Up to now, Sikorsky and its various suppliers have invested in as much as $200 million on the two first prototypes of the helicopter. The company hopes to be able to produce this revolutionary helicopter at $15 million per unit.
The Sikorsky S-97 Raider is set to fly for the first time on December 2014. However, the aircraft’s first flight and its first demonstration of capabilities won’t take place until mid-2015.
Sikorsky S-97 Raider Design
Design is one of the most eye-catching attributes of the Sikorsky S-97 Raider. Being a compound helicopter, the Sikorsky S-97 Raider includes variable speed coaxial main rotors and a variable pitch pusher propeller. The helicopter is large enough for 6 passengers to fit in, and the side-by-side cockpit can contain two pilots. However, the S-97 is also designed so that it can fly autonomously.
As far as the engine is concerned, it is based on the Sikorsky X2 demonstrator. Until now, The Sikorsky S-97 is equipped with the same engine used in the UH-60M Black Hawk. Nonetheless, the company foresees the development of an improved engine for its new helicopter.
Here is a timeline of the key dates since Sikorsky first launched its X2 Technology Demonstrator in August 2008. These key dates are in conformity with the information provided by Sikorsky on their Sikorsky S-97 Raider website.
- August 2008: X2 Technology Demonstrator™first flight
- September 2010: X2 Technology Demonstrator reaches 250 knots
- October 2010: S97 Raider™ launched
- July 2011: X2 Technology Demonstrator final flight
- January 2012: Initial Raider supplier team announced
- March 2013: Raider Critical Design Review completed
- September 2013: Raider aircraft #1 delivered, airframe final assembly begun
- January 2014:Raider Systems Integrations Lab (SIL) fully operational
- May 2014: Raider electrical power on achieved
- October 2014: Raider Rollout Ceremony
- December 2014: Raider first flight
- 2015:Raider flight test and Raider capability demonstrations
The Sikorsky S-97 Raider has a capacity for six troopers including up to two pilots. The space inside the helicopter can be adjusted according to needs. Thus, if need be, the space in the cockpit of the aircraft can be used to store additional equipment or ammunition.
According to the information disclosed by Sikorsky, the S-97 Raider is 36ft long and weighs 8,945 lb. Its maximum takeoff weight is 11,400 lb. It is equipped with one General Electric YT706 powerplant, and its main rotor diameter is of 34 ft. The aircraft is 6-bladed variable pitch and clutchable pusher propellers.
Sikorsky S-97 Raider Performance
The S-97 has a staggering Never exceed speed of 276 mph (240kn), and a cruising speed of 253 mph (200kn) external weapons included. The weapons include 50 cal guns w/500 rounds and a seven shot rockets pod, Hellfire missiles and 2.75” rockets. The range exceeds 600 km, and it has an endurance mean of 2.7 hours on standard fuel. In addition, the S-97 is also capable of aerial refueling.
As a matter of fact, the new and futuristic Sikorsky S-97 Raider is produced in order to replace the army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, an aircraft that has been in service since the 1960’s and which has been used in many wars by the US Army such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Thus, while, there are some similarities between the two helicopters, the Sikorsky S-97 Raider is clearly much more advanced at all levels.
Cenciotti states, “it is safe to believe that Sikorsky has embedded some of the features developed for the secret, radar evading US Army Stealth Black Hawk used by the Navy SEALs at Abbottabad in May 2011,”
Future Plans for the Sikorsky S-97 Raider
Sikorsky seems to be leading the way and setting an example to other companies on how to get things done. Not only does Sikorsky build state-of-the-art machines, but it also invests in future development opportunities. For example, as recently as in May 2014, Sikorsky won a U.S. Navy deal for the President’s Marine One helicopters. According to Reuters, the company “won an initial $1.24 billion contract to develop and build six new U.S. presidential helicopters, the first step toward a fleet of 21 new aircraft by 2023.”
Other future plans of the company include teaming up with other leading companies such as Boeing and Aurora Flight Sciences to manufacture new aircraft. In addition to all these recent successes, Sikorsky and Boeing have also been chosen to work hand in hand in order to produce the SB>1 Defiant, which is a “medium-lift-sized demonstrator.” The demonstrator is built for Future Vertical Lift and is expected to fly in 2017 as advanced by Sikorsky in a press release.
It is probably safe to say that during its 90 years of existence, Sikorsky is now stronger than ever. The rumors about the company’s divestiture have calmed down especially after the company was awarded a $1.24 billion deal to build the presidential helicopters. Therefore, although the Sikorsky S-97 Raider is one of the least revenue generating units belonging to United Technologies, the company isn’t thinking about selling it or spinning it off.
If Sikorsky continues its innovative efforts, it will eventually find more and more reliable customers than the US Army. This idea of using helicopters for civilian duties might be an interesting alternative, and selling the Sikorsky S-97 Raider to American allies could also help widen the company’s business opportunities.
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