Sikorsky Aircraft has successfully completed the first flight test of the S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter prototype at its Development Flight Center (DFC) in Jupiter, Florida, US.
During the one-hour test flight, the aircraft, flown by pilot Bill Fell and co-pilot Kevin Bredenbeck, underwent a series of manoeuvres designed to validate its hover and low-speed capability.
The trial transitions the helicopter into more progressive flight testing, which will demonstrate key performance parameters critical to future combat operations, including armed reconnaissance, light assault, light attack, and special operations.
Sikorsky president Bob Leduc said: "Today’s first flight of the S-97 Raider represents the latest leap forward for Sikorsky, our customers, and the rotorcraft industry.
"The industry has demanded high performance and high value from the products that execute critical missions, and, today, the Raider helicopter has given us an exciting look at the future of vertical flight."
Sikorsky Defense Systems and Services president Samir Mehta said: "With the Raider aircraft’s unmatched combination of speed, manoeuvrability and acoustic signature, Sikorsky Aircraft is ideally positioned to provide the military with essential mission-specific capabilities.
"With this flight, we have started the demonstration of solutions to not only near-term capability gaps but also solutions for future vertical lift needs."
Supported by a team of 53 industry partners, Sikorsky has been developing two Raider prototypes since October 2010 for the US Army’s armed aerial scout (AAS) programme.
Based on the company’s rigid X2 rotor coaxial design, the Raider is suitable for armed reconnaissance and a spectrum of special operations missions, and features a unique multi-mission configuration that 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.
The second Raider prototype is on schedule to complete final assembly this year, while a demonstration tour of the Raider helicopter is planned to take place in 2016.
Image: The S-97 Raider helicopter is designed to demonstrate a game-changing combination of manoeuvrability, hover ability, range, speed, endurance, and survivability. Photo: Copyright 2015 Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.