Black Hawk helicopter replacement completes new flight milestone

The Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing contender for the US Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) programme has completed a new flight milestone.

The aircraft, named the SB-1 Defiant, has completed mission profile test flights. The flights included confined area landings and low-level flight operations. These flights hope to validate Defiant’s relevancy to the US Army’s mission, providing agility at the objective and increased survivability while reducing pilot workload.

“We fully demonstrated Defiant’s ability to execute the FLRAA mission profile by flying 236 knots in level flight, then reducing thrust on the propulsor to rapidly decelerate as we approached the confined, and unimproved, landing zone,” said Bill Fell, Defiant chief flight test pilot at Sikorsky and a retired US Army Master aviator. “This type of level body deceleration allowed us to maintain situational awareness and view the landing zone throughout the approach and landing without the typical nose-up helicopter deceleration.

The SB-1 during its mission profile test flights

He added: “This confined area was extremely tight, requiring us to delay descent until nearly over the landing spot, followed by a near-vertical drop. We landed Defiant precisely on the objective with little effort as we descended into this narrow hole while maintaining clearance on all sides.”

SB-1 Defiant is the technology demonstrator proving out transformational capabilities for the Defiant X weapon system, the Sikorsky-Boeing team offering for the FLRAA competition as part of the service’s Future Vertical Lift programme.

Defiant X will enable crews to fly low and fast through complex terrain, where army aviators spend most of their time. It will extend capabilities of Army Aviation on the modern battlefield – and is designed to fit in the same footprint as a Black Hawk. With Defiant X, the US Army will deliver troops and cargo in future combat at twice the range of the current fleet.

A Sikorsky graphic of Defiant X
A Sikorsky graphic of Defiant X

“It’s what we call building combat power rapidly, and aircraft like the Defiant X can do that,” said Tony Crutchfield, retired US Army lieutenant general and now vice president of Army Systems at Boeing. “In the Pacific, it’s even more important because your lines of operation are going to be dispersed over a wide area; you’re going to have these small bases and supply lines that’ll be positioned either on ships or on islands. You’re going to want to move more assets, manoeuvre in confined terrain and survive to build that combat power faster than your adversary can – so you can win.”

The new aircraft incorporates Sikorsky X2 Technology to operate at high speeds while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. This critical capability provides pilots with increased manoeuvrability and survivability in high-threat environments, allowing them to penetrate enemy defences while reducing exposure to enemy fire.

Its X2 coaxial rotor system and pusher prop allows for a high degree of manoeuvrability in and around the objective which is also directly linked to survivability.

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