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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

S-97 Raider Preps for Army AAS Competition

By Douglas Nelms

Sikorsky has completed the preliminary design review (PDR) for the S-97 Raider, going through all the sub-systems and overall system design, and has started the detail design and long lead time parts fabrication, which keeps the aircraft on target to fly in 2014, according to Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development arm of Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Van Buiten added that some 20-plus “suppliers and partners” are involved in the program.

The S-97 is based on technology developed through Sikorsky’s X2 experimental helicopter prototype, and will be the company’s entry in the U.S. Army’s upcoming Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program. Two prototypes will be built, configured to carry up to six troops.

Of the five major competitors considering the AAS program, Sikorsky is the only one that does not already have a prototype flying. The others include the Bell OH-58 Block II, Boeing AH-6i, EADS North America AAS-72X and AgustaWestland, with eiither the AW109 or AW119. The disadvantage of not already having a flying prototype is trumped by the advantage of having a future aircraft capable of flying at twice the speed, with double the maneuverability and the capability to hover out of ground effect at 10,000 feet at 95 degrees F, compared to the “6K/95” requirement (6,000 feet/95 degrees F) for the other aircraft, Van Buiten pointed out. He also noted that the S-97 features totally new technology, whereas the other competing helicopters are all new generations of older aircraft, two of which date back to the Vietnam era.


Sikorsky X2 demonstrator at AUSA in October. Photo by Andrew Parker

Van Buiten noted that the S-97 is being designed from the start to be manned by either one or two pilots, or flown totally autonomous as a UAV, depending on the mission requirement. “We call it the optionally piloted aircraft, so the mission commander makes the decision which version to use. No pilot on board, or one pilot plus one observer—or, for a very demanding mission, with two trained aviators up there.”

He explained that Sikorsky is already looking at the next size up from the S-97, which would be replacements for the Black Hawk and the Apache after 2020. These would also use technology developed from the X2 program. “There is no formal program yet, but we are getting ready. Those (aircraft) would have the same game changing attributes as the S-97—double the speed and maneuverability and the same 10K/95 HOGE … but with twin engines.”

For the full story, see Program Insider in the Rotorcraft Report section of the December print issue of
Rotor & Wing.

Related: Sikorsky's Comet; Boldly Funding the Future

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