Potential FLRAA Winner. Sikorsky and Boeing unveil new Defiant X helicopter project

Virtual Defiant X in flight

Sikorsky (part of Lockheed Martin) and Boeing continue to work on a promising helicopter that can replace the existing UH-60 aircraft. The other day they first published information about their new project called Defiant X. It builds on previous developments and will qualify for Pentagon contracts.

Aircraft of the future

For several years, work has continued on the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program, the goal of which is to create a new multi-purpose helicopter to replace obsolete machines. The program is already approaching its final, and the participating companies are preparing to present their developments in the final configuration.

Late last year, the Pentagon released a draft final RFP for the FLRAA. The final version of the request is expected to be completed during FY2021. In December, it was announced that only the Sikorsky-Boeing merger and Bell are considered as participants in the new phase of the program. However, the participation of other organizations was not excluded – but they had only two weeks to receive applications. As expected, no such applications were received.

On January 25, Boeing and Sikorsky disclosed information about their new project. To participate in the new stage of FLRAA, they developed a multipurpose helicopter called the Defiant X. It is based on the experience of designing and testing previous experimental vehicles, but more fully meets the customer’s requirements for technical, combat and operational characteristics.

In their official press release, the two companies claim that the Defiant X will be the fastest, most manoeuvrable and durable “attack helicopter” in history. In 2035 and later, when such technology becomes widespread in the army, they predict a real revolution in the field of combat capabilities. Defiant X will be able to quickly overcome the most difficult routes, deliver people and goods to the specified point and leave the danger zone with minimal risks.

Also, the development companies have published several images of the helicopter and an animated video showing the main features and capabilities of such a machine. At the same time, the tactical and technical characteristics are not disclosed.

Similarities and differences

The presented Defiant X helicopter is the result of many years of work, during which several prototypes were created and tested. As a result, the current car retains a lot of the features of its predecessors, although it has noticeable external and internal differences. In addition, one can assume the presence of the most serious innovations, directly related to customer requirements.

Like previous prototypes, the Defiant X is an unusual helicopter design with a twin-rotor coaxial carrier system and a pusher rotor in the tail. The combination of rotors and pusher is based on Sikorsky X2 Technology, which is considered the main result of previous projects.

The general architecture of the airframe has been preserved with streamlined outer contours and a large tail section. At the same time, the glider has changed significantly. The shape of the nose cone has been improved, engine casings have been changed, etc. Developers point to improved aerodynamics and reduced infrared visibility

The Defiant X helicopter, unlike its predecessors, is intended not only for testing, which affects the composition of onboard equipment. He must receive a full sighting and navigation system necessary for piloting and performing combat missions. However, the exact list of the proposed equipment has not been disclosed.

As part of further development, the Defiant X helicopter may receive an improved fly-by-wire control system with new functions. In particular, the maximum automation of piloting processes is expected, as well as the appearance of a full-fledged unmanned mode. This will lead, at a minimum, to a reduction in pilot workload without sacrificing basic performance and capabilities.

Like the previous prototype SB> 1 Defiant helicopter, the new Defiant X is designed to carry people and cargo. A large cockpit is provided for them in the bow and central part of the fuselage. The dimensions of this compartment and the carrying capacity have not yet been specified. It also provides transportation of goods on an external sling. The promotional material depicts the transport of containers and towed weapons.

The performance characteristics of the Defiant X have not yet been announced. Most likely, this machine will repeat or improve the successes of the previous SB> 1. So, an experienced helicopter in October last year in horizontal flight developed a speed of 211 knots (390 km / h). Additional speed gains may be required to gain a competitive edge in the FLRAA competition.

Competitive prospects

The companies “Sikorsky” and “Boeing” have already presented the general appearance of their helicopter, which in the near future will have to compete for contracts. At the same time, the final version of the terms of reference for the FLRAA program has not yet been developed, it is expected only by the end of the current financial year. Perhaps the clarification of certain requirements will lead to the need to finalize the Defiant X project, however, a radical alteration is no longer required.

Experienced SB> 1 Defiant after rollout

It is reported that the new Defiant X helicopter is now being tested in a virtual environment. The computer model of the product is tested in different modes and in different situations. This stage will be followed by fine-tuning, after which the construction of a prototype is expected. Such a car could be rolled out as early as next FY2022.

Also in the near future, the Pentagon will have to compare the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X helicopter with a competing development from Bell and choose the most successful model. By the end of the decade, it is planned to complete the development of the winning project, set up production and begin the rearmament of army units.

It should be noted that the competitor of the Defiant X project is not yet known. In the previous stages of the FLRAA program, the development of Boeing and Sikorsky was opposed by the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor. Perhaps it will be finalized and re-nominated for the competition, or a new car with a number of serious differences will be created on its basis. Bell has not disclosed its plans yet, but it will happen soon.

The fight is escalating

Until recently, the Pentagon’s FLRAA program was at the stage of research and development, finding the necessary solutions and demonstrating technologies. The expected release of the final version of the terms of reference will move it to a new stage. Participating companies will have to complete the design, build experimental equipment and show its superiority over competing developments.

This will be followed by lucrative orders from the US military. In addition, it reported interest in FLRAA from third countries. Some NATO states, now operating UH-60 helicopters, may in the future replace them with promising high-speed machines. Thus, winning the current program will quickly recoup all costs and bring new profits.

The first participant in the last stage of the program is already known – this is the Defiant X helicopter from Sikorsky and Boeing. In the very near future, Bell will also reveal its plans for FLRAA. The winner of the competition will be chosen a little later. In the meantime, we should expect the continuation of design work, construction and roll-out of experimental equipment, as well as increased competition in all its manifestations.

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