Sikorsky Unveils the S-97 RAIDER - Sleek, Fast and Deadly

Sikorsky S-97 1 photo
Photo: Sikorsky
The future of helicopters is here and it comes with three rotors, according to Sikorsky Aircraft. The US company recently unveiled the first two S-97 RAIDER prototypes also marking the start of the test flight phase.
“Today, Sikorsky unveiled the next generation of military rotorcraft, with capabilities and performance never seen before in our industry,” said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. “Just four years ago, we announced plans to build the S-97 RAIDER and teamed with some of the best companies in the industry, understanding the need to ensure aircraft development would not falter as government defense budgets shrank in response to economic pressures. Sikorsky is proud of its leadership in this area, and of the leadership the S-97 RAIDER represents among the world’s military rotorcraft.”

Blink and you'll miss it

In 2010, United Technologies Corp.’s subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft proposed a high-speed scout and attack helicopter for the United States Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program. The project was 100 percent industry funded, with Sikorsky providing 75% of the investment while 53 principal suppliers added the rest.

The first two prototypes are now ready, coming with next-generation technologies and a multi-mission configuration, all dictated by the new rigid X2 rotor coaxial design. Having three rotors, the Sikorsky S-97 RAIDER is actually considered a compound helicopter.

Two coaxial main rotors measuring 10 meters (32.8 ft) in diameter will provide the lifting power as well as part of the thrusting, while the rear-mounted 2.1 meter (7 ft) variable pitch pusher propeller will aid the S-97 reach a never exceed speed of 276 mph (444 km/h or 240 kn).

Cruising speed will be done at a still-whopping-fast 253 mph (407 km/h or 220 kn) even with external weapons, meaning it will go twice as fast as current models, and it will offer a range of 354 miles (570 km or 308 nmi) at a maximum height of 10,000 ft (3,048 m).

How does this composite airframe bird achieves them all?

To start with, it’s lightweight, tipping the scales at 4,057 kg (8,945 lb) when empty and 4,990 kg (11,000 lb) when 2 pilots and 6 equipped troops are onboard. Next comes its drag resistance, with the whole body having a 15 percent smaller footprint than conventional helicopters.

Then you have the almighty General Electric YT706 engine that boasts 2,600 hp (1,900 kW) which is based on the CR7-8A. Compared to its T700 older iteration, it now comes with a larger compressor, hot section improvements and a full authority digital engine control.

Tools of the trade

The Sikorsky S-97 RAIDER’s main role will be to replace the army’s Bell OH-58D Kinowa Warrior, which means it will also carry it’s own arsenal - a .50 cal gun with 500 rounds ready to split anything in half as well as 14 rockets, 7 on each pod, both air-air and air-ground.

All these could be operated by two, one or even no pilots at all, since the S-97 is said to become fully autonomous after it will take the first tests with “flying colors”. This means the helicopter will also be used for dangerous reconnaissance or search and rescue missions.

First flight tests are scheduled to happen by the end of this year. Unspecified foreign militaries have already shown interest in the new S-97.

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