Able to reach speeds of up to 407 km/h (252 mph), operate in the harshest environments, as well as perform a variety of tasks, that’s what the S-97 Raider can do.
The future of US helicopter units will most likely be served by this machine. S-97 Raider is a product of Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin group company, specially designed for special operations. There is no denying that US military science and technology are at the forefront of inventing advanced weapons. Military experts liken the S-97 Raider to a futuristic weapon.
Development of high-speed helicopters is one of the requirements for making weapons to strengthen the military. Current helicopters are often judged to be weak mobility, because only the maximum speed limit is within 300km/h (186 mph) range.
In the latest tests, the Sikorsky helicopter met the Army’s speed requirement for their new reconnaissance vehicle, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
Over the past few years, the US Army has considered prioritizing a medium-sized armed reconnaissance helicopter to replace UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apache planes and can fill the space left by the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. The US Army signed a contract with five of its military contractors to implement a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program.
Accordingly, AVX Aircraft-L3 Technologies, Bell, Boeing, Karem Aircraft, and Sikorsky firms will proceed to design, build prototypes and test. Not all contractors publicize the idea of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. Currently, Sikorsky is testing the S-97 Raider coaxial helicopter.
Sikorsky’s earliest attempt at a fast compound helicopter with stiff coaxial rotors was the Sikorsky S-69 flown in the 1970s. Its top speed was over 260 knots but its excessive fuel consumption, vibration and complexity requiring the full-time attention of two pilots led to the program’s cancellation.
These problems were largely solved on another attempt by the Sikorsky X2 technology demonstrator in 2010. The secret behind the X2’s speed and agility was the presence of a set of composite, four bladed, coaxial rotors. What the coaxial rotors meant was that a separate tail rotor was not required. This freed up some real estate on the tail for the addition of the pusher propeller.
The pusher propeller produced a considerable amount of thrust and played a major role in increasing the top speed of the rotorcraft. A single LHTEC T800 LHT 801 turbo shaft engine powered both the coaxial rotor blades as well as the six bladed pusher propeller.
First proposed in response to a Request for Information for the Armed Aerial Scout program in March 2010, the S-97 was formally launched on 20 October 2010. Sikorsky planned to offer it for the United States Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program, along with other possible uses.
The S-97 made its maiden flight on 22 May 2015. The US Special Operations Command having expressed interest in the S-97 as a replacement for the MH-6 Little Bird, and the possibility of adapting it for civilian applications also exists.
The helicopter is suitable for assault and armed reconnaissance missions. The technology is, however, scalable to a range of other missions such as close-air support, combat search and rescue and special operations. Designed with a lower turning radius and acoustic noise signature, the S-97 is expected to be a game-changer in the light military helicopters segment.
The S-97 design includes variable speed rigid coaxial main rotors and a variable-pitch pusher propeller, making the S-97 a compound helicopter. The twin main rotors with a 34 feet (10.3m) diameter and a 7 feet (2.1 m) diameter propeller in the rear.
The fuselage of the helicopter will be built of composite materials is 37 feet (11.2m) long and 16 feet (4.8m) wide. The cabin will have seating for a troop of six. The cockpit can accommodate two pilots in a side-by-side seating arrangement.
The production S-97 is projected to be capable of flying with either one or two pilots, or autonomously. An auxiliary internal fuel tank will be provided aft of the cockpit for extended mission support and operational flexibility. The helicopter features a retractable landing gear and fly-by-wire flight controls. Space for a targeting sensor has been reserved, however it will not be installed in the prototype aircraft.
Based on the technology from the Sikorsky X2 demonstrator, the prototype S-97s will be powered by a General Electric YT706 turboshaft. A more powerful engine, developed under the Improved Turbine Engine Program, is expected to become available.
Compared to the OH-58D Kiowa, the S-97 has significantly increased performance goals. The pusher type clutched propeller will enable the helicopter to fly at speeds up to 253 Miles per hour (407 km/h) with external weapons.
The dash speed will be more than 276 Miles per hour (444 km/h), which is almost double that of a conventional helicopter.
The S-97 can use the rear-mounted propeller to counteract the rotors. You can tilt forward without going faster or tilt backwards without going slower. Which means you can angle the aircraft whatever way is best to see what you’re interested in — a landing zone, an enemy target, an obstacle, and still maintain your desired speed.
The S-97 can even hover in place while you point the nose up and down at will. Traditional helicopters can’t do that, because they can only hold still if they stay level.
On the S-97, pilots do not have to adjust continuously to keep it hovering in place. Because the computerized fly-by-wire controls make the micro-corrections automatically, even countering sudden gusts of wind so smoothly.
There is good reason for Sikorsky to finish flight-testing of the S-97 as soon as possible. If put into operation, S-97 promises to be the perfect replacement for OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, a helicopter that dates back to the Vietnam War era.
The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was primarily an observation or “scout” helicopter, also capable of fulfilling the light attack role. Due to its small size and ability to get in and out of sticky situations without so much as breaking a sweat, Special Forces operators preferred it.
The S-97 Raider seems to be ideally suited for this role. As it not only lives up to, but also improves upon the characteristics of the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.
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