Florida is known for its sunny skies and hot temperatures, but nothing brings the heat like the S-97 RAIDER® at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center where the advanced helicopter regularly zips, dips, dives and pirouettes, reaching speeds of 205+ knots. A traditional helicopter just can’t keep up.
The S-97 RAIDER is the technology demonstrator for RAIDER X®, Sikorsky’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) offering, to revolutionize the U.S. Army’s fleet. The team designing RAIDER X gathers data and lessons from every S-97 RAIDER flight. Future aviators will rely on RAIDER X to be a fast, agile, survivable compound coaxial helicopter to address evolving threats in the most difficult environments.
As an 80 percent-scale prototype of the RAIDER X® design, the S-97 RAIDER flight test program informs design decisions, correlates to a virtual prototype and enables Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, to experiment with the unique capabilities that X2™ technology provides.
Digital Factory Enables Faster Build
The RAIDER X Competitive Prototype (CP) aircraft is making progress thanks to Sikorsky’s digital factory and other advanced techniques.
With the RAIDER X CP, 3D printing allowed the team to reduce risk and fabricate and validate parts in weeks to months, as opposed to what would historically take months to years.
“We have a mature capability across Lockheed Martin and our suppliers to incorporate many more additively manufactured components on the RAIDER X CP aircraft,” said FARA Chief Engineer Pete Germanowski. “The rapid maturation of this technology across the Lockheed Martin enterprise and our supply base, for both metal and composite materials, enables schedule, cost and weight savings across our systems.”
Here are some fast facts about the RAIDER X CP aircraft:
- It’s 90% complete with 98% of parts on hand
- Acceptance test procedures are over 50% complete
- RAIDER X is about 20 percent larger than the S-97 RAIDER
- Power has been the RAIDER X on since October 2021
The Sikorsky team also built a second RAIDER X fuselage, which is being integrated into the team’s structural test program and will be used to validate the flight and ground loads capability of the airframe.
It’s tests like these that support Sikorsky’s flight safety program, providing data to optimize and accelerate the design, resulting in more flexibility and greater risk reduction.
“With established high-tech manufacturing facilities, a flying prototype in the S-97 RAIDER and existing digital thread and virtual models, the RAIDER X will offer the operational flexibility the Army needs including speed where it matters, a large multi-functional weapons bay and unprecedented acceleration and deceleration capability,” said business development director Jay Macklin.
RAIDER X also features a Modular Open System Approach (MOSA) for avionics and mission systems, offering “plug-and-play” options for computing, sensors, survivability and weapons. This enables a broader range of aircraft configurations for specific mission requirements.
The autonomy, fly-by-wire technology, and co-axial design will allow crews to fly extremely fast and extremely low to operate in and dominate the lower tier of the air domain for decades.
“Flying RAIDER continues to amaze me,” said Christiaan Corry, a former U.S. Marine with more than 4,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft including the CH-53E, CH-53K and others. “The combination of the coaxial rotors and the propulsor are really the enablers for this transformational technology. As we demonstrate every time we fly, in low-speed flight we are as capable as a conventional helicopter, but when we engage the prop, we are able to operate in a whole new way – it’s much more like flying an airplane.”