Sikorsky Aircraft has unveiled the first of two S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes, which are being offered for the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) programme, at its facility in Florida, US.
The launch signals the start of activities in the programme's test flight phase, and marks a significant step toward demonstrating the new and first armed reconnaissance rotorcraft featuring X2 technology, which is designed for military missions.
Sikorsky president Mick Maurer said: "Military rotorcraft fleets need maximum performance and increased capabilities to achieve their objectives.
"The Raider delivers on that with its greatly improved manoeuvrability and speed, significantly improved high / hot hover performance, and greater range and endurance."
Sikorsky Research & Engineering vice-president Mark Miller said: "With the Raider programme, Sikorsky has brought innovation to every aspect of the process, rethinking the way we design, build, test and support the product.
"We've kept a close eye on lowering development, production and support costs while increasing productivity and quality, and we are confident that the Raider is the solution for the future warfighter."
Based on Sikorsky's rigid X2 rotor coaxial design, the S-97 Raider features next-generation technologies in a multi-mission configuration, including armed aerial scout or light assault.
Powered by a single engine, the helicopter features a composite airframe and a maximum gross weight of slightly more than 11,000lbs, and can carry an array of weapons and sensors.
The helicopter's cockpit will seat two pilots, while the flexible cabin space will carry up to six combat-equipped troops, or additional fuel and ammunition for extended missions.
Sikorsky's coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and pusher propeller can provide cruise speeds up to 220k, which is more than double the speed of legacy helicopters.
The AAS programme aims to replace the army's ageing OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet.
Image: Sikorsky's first S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes during an event in Florida, US. Photo: © 2014 Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.