FUTURE HELO ACQUISITIONS
Armed Aerial Scout competition draws 7 hopefuls
AgustaWestland, AVX, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter, MD and Sikorsky look to win US Army's AAS award for up to 368 new helicopters to replace Bell's OH58D Kiowa Warrior.
Sikorsky S97 Raider
Sikorsky's S97 Raider has a coaxial counter-rotating rigid rotor system, active rudders and elevators controlled by FBW and a pusher prop. The design is based on its X2 test article. It has a claimed cruise speed of over 200 kts. A prototype Raider is scheduled to fly in 2014.
Sikorsky plans to scale up its X2 technology demonstrator to produce the S97 Raider—the AAS candidate that promises the highest performance, with cruise speeds above 200 kts.
The prototype Raider is scheduled to fly in 2014 and will feature a rigid counter-rotating coaxial rotor system, a pusher propeller, active rudders and elevators, all controlled through a FBW flight control system.
According to Sikorsky, "the Raider applies proven technology and mission systems to meet the AAS requirements with low risk." Sikorsky AAS Program Mgr Steve Engebretson stated at the 2012 Army AUSA annual exposition, "We have been working a long time to debunk the myth that because this is a high-performance aircraft it's going to be very complex and expensive. It's actually just the opposite of that."
Engebretson goes on to point out that all of the Raider systems—such as FBW (à la Sikorsky CH53K) and dual coaxial rotor systems—have flown on other production or development aircraft.
Sikorsky Spokesman Frans Jurgens adds, "It is a design innovation, not complex technology, that allows us to deliver revolutionary performance. We are repackaging them to get twice the capability of a conventional rotorcraft."
Third time's a charm
In times of war, the AAS mission is critical to the warfighter. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, utilization rates for the OH58D were 25% higher than planned. (Pilots and aircraft performed admirably under stress.)
Now that the US is out of Iraq and Afghanistan is drawing down, it's important not to lose sight of this mission or the performance gaps associated with an aging aircraft that simply cannot perform well or safely in hot-and-high environments.
After 2 very expensive failed attempts to replace the Kiowa Warrior—the RAH66 Comanche and ARH70 programs—industry has now stepped up and devoted substantial resources to develop modern, capable and affordable AAS candidates to support the US Army's mission.
At $13–15 million per copy, the Army does get "a lot of bang for the buck," but to hold out for a next-generation aircraft at this price is simply not reasonable.
Stuart Lau is a senior account manager for CAE Flightscape. He leads the IHST HFDM Working Group and acts as an IHST liaison to the Global HFDM Steering Group. He is also a pilot for a large international airline and a safety and accident investigation committee member. Lau has been associated with Pro Pilot since 1996.