A walk around Sikorsky “Raider,” contender for world’s fastest military copter

WASHINGTON—At the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition here today, Sikorsky gave press and attendees a guided walk-around of the S-97 Raider, a proof-of-concept helicopter developed without government funding that the company hopes will earn a role with the military as an armed scout helicopter. The Raider is different from just about everything in the helicopter world, using a pair of counter-rotating rigid rotors for lift and a tail-mounted propeller for additional thrust, allowing it to fly at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour (220 knots) and hover at extreme altitudes.

The walk-around was guided by the Raider’s chief test pilot Bill Fell, a former Army Kiowa scout pilot who has flown the aircraft for both of the test flights thus far. The Raider first flew in May of this year and again in September after reconfigurations based on the engineering data collected in the first flight.

The Raider is based on the research done with Sikorsky’s X2 technology demonstrator, which in 2010 (unofficially) broke the speed record for rotary-wing aircraft by flying at 250 knots (287 miles per hour). It is also in many ways a development platform for the SB-1 Defiant, Sikorsky’s joint proposal with Boeing for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. But with the Army having retired its Kiowa scout helicopters, Sikorsky is hoping that the Raider will fill a hole in the Army’s aviation capabilities that can’t currently be filled by unmanned aircraft. “You need to have a human in the loop assessing the situation” on scout missions, Fell said.

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