Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is in the final stages of debuting the company’s new S-97 Raider light attack helicopter. On January 28, 2015, the aircraft underwent its first auxiliary power unit ignition and subsequent systems checks off the APU (currently a General Electric GE-T706). This test marks the beginning step towards the aircraft’s first test flight scheduled for a couple of weeks.
The aircraft uses Sikorsky’s proprietary X2 technology – dual fixed coaxial rotors with blades rotating in opposite directions from each other (stacked on top of each other atop the aircraft’s fuselage) to cancel out rotational torque and provide lift, as well as a six-blade pusher propeller to move the aircraft forward on the tail.
The company claims that this configuration, along with vibration reducing and fly-by-wire systems, will greatly reduce hub drag, produce less noise, increase speed, and improve performance in high altitudes and high temperatures. The Raider’s purported specifications include a cruising speed of 253 miles per hour (more than double the speed of conventional helicopters) and three G’s in turns. Additionally, the aircraft is expected to be able to fly for a maximum of 354 miles, endure for 2 hours and 40 minutes, and reach a ceiling of 10,000 feet.
The S-97 Raider was first announced in 2010 in response to a Request for Information for the Armed Aerial Scout Program issued by the United States Army. The S-97 is anticipated to replace the military branch’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior or the Special Forces’ MH-6 Little Bird in operations such as armed reconnaissance, light attack and assault, search and rescue, and casualty evacuation. The Raider was designed to hold a variety of armament systems including a 50-caliber or 7.62 mm machine gun with 500 rounds, a 7-shot rocket pod with 2.75 inch rockets, or Hellfire missiles. Although primarily intended for military use, the Raider is entirely sponsored by private investors composed of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (assuming 75% of the costs) and 53 other funders.
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