JUST IN: Sikorsky Expects to Fly New Scout Helicopter Next Year

By Stew Magnuson
The Sikorsky Raider X Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft competitive prototype

Sikorsky photo

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky expects to fly its candidate for the Army’s hotly contested Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program before the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024, its president told reporters recently.

The Lockheed Martin-owned company is expecting delivery of the aircraft’s newly designed engine sometime in October, Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky’s president, told reporters Oct. 2.

“This is a fully completed aircraft minus an engine,” he said.

The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA, program is pitting Sikorsky’s Raider X aircraft against Bell’s 360 Invictus. The winner of the competition will replace the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, which was retired almost a decade ago. The companies have been awaiting delivery of the General Electric T901, which emerged out of the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program.

The Army announced Oct. 4 in a press release that the Defense Contract Management Agency had accepted the first ITEP flight test engine from GE on Sept. 28, with the second soon to follow. The engines will be delivered to the two contractors by the end of October, the statement added.

The T901 will also replace the T700 engine currently used on all AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

“The T901’s fuel efficiency will improve the Army’s enduring aircraft fleet’s range, loiter time and fuel consumption and restore high hot 6k/95-degree operational capability. The engine’s reliability and increased life expectancy also reduces maintenance and sustainment costs” all while maintaining roughly the same size and weight as its predecessors, the statement said.

Lemmo said: “As soon as we receive it, we will be able to immediately start the installation process in advance of ground testing and eventually flight testing” at the company’s West Palm Beach, Florida, facility. Those flight tests are expected sometime in 2024, he added.

Sikorsky doesn’t expect many surprises in the installation process. It has used digital engineering to work out problems on computers in advance and 3D printing to make a plastic mock-up of the engine to ensure it fits, he said.

“It will take some time to install, but it shouldn't be too long other than this is the first time we're doing it. … These aircraft are designed to replace engines pretty quickly in the depot,” he noted.

Nevertheless, the decision to move forward is not Sikorsky’s alone, he said.

“The Army has a certification body that will look at the data and certify that we are ready to start the engine for the first time and go do ground tests, and then eventually that we're ready to go do flight testing,” he said.

And GE will continue to carry out parallel testing on the new engine, which is why he was reluctant to put a timeline on how long the integration will take, he added.

“They don't just give us the engines. They have many others which they're testing in different conditions. And so that will all be done in parallel and help to inform the readiness to go to do ground tests and then flight tests,” Lemmo said.

Meanwhile, the company continues to fly and learn from its S-97 Raider prototype, an 80 percent scale version of the Raider X that has some 136 flight hours on it since it first took flight in 2015. It has informed design decisions for Raider X. Sikorsky recently flew a high speed, high maneuver flight test that captured data that will inform decisions on increment one of the program, he added.

The prototype is also helping Sikorsky design a lighter aircraft, he said.

“We pretty much know the flight sciences on [Raider X] very well. What we're learning is how to make the aircraft lighter weight, because weight is always a factor in any aircraft,” he said. “You want to have growth capability in your aircraft.”

Overall, “we think our solution will provide a connected, integrated weapons system that combines speed, range, maneuverability, survivability and operational flexibility to execute [missions] in emerging expanded threat environments,” Lemmo said.


Topics: Air Power

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