Sikorsky Aircraft has started the final assembly of the second S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter prototype at its development flight center in West Palm Beach, Florida, US.

Supported by a team of industry suppliers, the company has been developing two Raider prototypes since October 2010 for the US Army’s armed aerial scout (AAS) programme.

Based on Sikorsky’s rigid X2 rotor coaxial design, the Raider is suitable for armed reconnaissance and a spectrum of special operations missions.

Sikorsky Aircraft S-97 Raider programme manager Mark Hammond said: "As a team, we’ve already demonstrated the power of working together to develop a high-performance and affordable next-generation aircraft.

"Starting assembly of the second prototype is a great milestone for the programme."

The final assembly of the prototype began with the delivery of the all-composite fuselage from Aurora Flight Sciences.

Aurora Flight Sciences president and COO Mark Cherry said: "Aurora’s expertise in composite airframes and rapid prototyping was a natural fit for the S-97 Raider programme, and was a natural fit to our core competency.

"We value the cohesion of the team in the design, manufacturing and test elements of the programme."

"Aurora’s expertise in composite airframes and rapid prototyping was a natural fit for the S-97 Raider programme."

Built to prove the military application of X2 Technology, the first Raider prototype is currently undergoing bladed ground testing at an non-disclosed location.

The second prototype will serve as a demonstrator aircraft, enabling key customers to experience X2 technology capabilities first-hand.

Sikorsky intends to complete final assembly and test flights of the second prototype this year, and conduct demonstration flights next year.

The 100% industry-funded armed reconnaissance rotorcraft features next-generation technologies in a multi-mission configuration, including armed aerial scout or light assault, and can carry six troops and external weapons.

The helicopter has coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher propeller that provides cruise speeds up to 220k, a composite airframe and a maximum gross weight of just more than 11,000lb.

Image: The second S-97 Raider helicopter has entered final assembly. Photo: courtesy of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.