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Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider Begins Flight Testing

The S-97 is 34 feet wide at the rotor tips, and 36 feet long from the rear propeller boss to the foremost part of the rotor disk, and has a maximum gross weight of 11,400 pounds, according to company materials. It is designed to carry six troops as well as external weapons at a cruising speed of up to 240 knots (276 mph) with a range up to 600 kilometers, and to hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 6,000 feet at up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Raider first flight

The S-97 is designed for a 240-knot cruise speed and 600 kilometer range. Sikorsky Aircraft photo

The S-97 program is part of Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development organization within Sikorsky Aircraft’s Research & Engineering division. The Raider program is funded completely by Sikorsky Aircraft and its 53 industry partners.

“It is the Sikorsky Innovations charter to identify the toughest challenges in vertical flight, and to demonstrate solutions to them,” said Mark Miller, Vice President of Research & Engineering. “Getting an all-new aircraft into flight, especially one with game-changing capabilities, is a remarkable feat. With this first flight of the S-97 Raider helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft is proving once again that the tough challenges will always propel us forward.”

The Defiant, with the same coaxial rigid rotor and pusher propeller configuration as the S-97, is designed to have a gross weight of more than 30,000 pounds, and is being developed under the Joint Multi-Role Technology Program (JMR), with technology demonstrations set for 2017.

“This exemplifies the very DNA of Sikorsky Aircraft: to explore, to challenge, to pioneer, and in doing so, to ultimately change what is possible for our customers,” Miller said. “It is exciting that the S-97 Raider helicopter leverages a mix of evolutionary rotorcraft technologies that, when combined in this new way, results in revolutionary capability.”

Defiant JMR-FVL

The S-97 Raider is also intended to mature technologies for the Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1 Defiant helicopter entrant in the Joint Multi-Role Program. Sikorsky Aircraft photo

While the Army’s Armed Scout Helicopter program for which it was originally intended has been cancelled, there are still likely customers for an aircraft that can prove such promised capabilities, and a mock-up of the Raider was displayed at this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) show. Meanwhile, Sikorsky is also using the two Raider prototype aircraft to mature technologies for the Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1 Defiant compound helicopter program, a model of which was also on display at SOFIC. The Defiant, with the same coaxial rigid rotor and pusher propeller configuration as the S-97, is designed to have a gross weight of more than 30,000 pounds, and is being developed under the Joint Multi-Role Technology Program (JMR), with technology demonstrations set for 2017. The JMR program is the precursor to the joint Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, which plans to develop four helicopters employing common components but with varying capabilities for different missions:

  • JMR-Light: A light scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior
  • JMR-Medium: One platform with attack and utility versions to replace the AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk.
  • JMR-Heavy: A Chinook replacement.
  • JMR-Ultra: A heavy-lift helicopter with performance and payload capabilities possibly up to those of a C-130.

The second Raider is scheduled to complete final assembly this year, with a demonstration tour of the S-97 is planned for 2016.

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