Sikorsky’s Plan for the Army’s Scout Contest

Sikorsky executives today explained their strategy for moving their S-97 Raider coaxial rotor design forward in the Army’s armed aerial scout contest despite the fact that their design isn’t flying yet.

“We’re developing two prototype aircraft with the purpose of demonstrating this type of capability with the target of hitting the armed aerial scout,” said Doug Shidler, Sikorsky’s Raider program manager, when I asked him today how the company planned to effectively bid on the armed aerial scout contest with their unbuilt chopper at a press conference where Shidler was announcing the Raider’s 35 supplier companies.

“There aren’t any requirements out there yet for the armed aerial scout but what we’re trying to do is demonstrate that with new technology you can provide a great deal more capability to the Army versus extending the current fleet that has capabilities that have existed for many, many years,” said Shidler.

Keep in mind that the Army seems to largely be interested in developing an existing airframe into a new scout chopper.

Steve Engebretson, Sikorsky’s man in charge of winning the scout contest, added his two cents when I asked how the company can compete for the scout contract if it doesn’t have a prototype that can fly in this spring’s scout chopper demo.

“We have been told that everyone who was considered in the [Army’s analysis of alternatives for replacing the Kiowa Warrior chopper fleet] will have the opportunity to respond to the RfI we were one of the products included in the AoA,” said Engebretson. “The airplanes that fly [in the demo], and this is my understanding of what the Army is looking for, will be evaluated to see whether there is an existing capability good enough to meet the next AAS requirement. The other products, like ours, that were also evaluated in the AoA will get to come in and show off where our technology is, what we’re gonna cost, what our timeline looks like and how viable we are. We’ve got a ton of data, we’ve got 35 companies building hardware, we think we’re gonna be in a very good position to demonstrate the fact that we’ll provide a capability that will outdo anything that exists today at a timeline that will still meet the Army’s requirements.”

The S-97 is designed to be able to fly at 250 knots and turn in half the radius of current helos. The first flight of the Sikorsky’s demonstrator choppers is set for 2014. If the company is awarded a contract to build scout helos, it can begin production around 2021 and start fielding the choppers around 2025.

Engebretson went on to say that the coaxial technology upon which the Raider is based has already been proven, by Sikorsky’s record breaking X2 chopper and a number of existing tech that is being designed for use on the Raider.

“This is a fairly mature level of technology, it’s a new design, it’s next generation capability but it’s not a high-risk type of approach,” said Engebretson. “We’re going to demonstrate it to show that it’s an achievable in the timeline that’s there for the military requirements and that it’s going to be affordable as well.”

He also revealed that the Raider is one of the four technologies Sikorsky is considering offering up for the Pentagon’s next generation Joint Multirole Helo effort. He wouldn’t say what the other three technologies are.



  • Lance

    The chopper looks awesome and slick. But I don’t see the money for such a program for a decade for be while before this cool chopper will fly.

    • fromage

      I don’t really understand your second sentence, but if you’re hinting at confusion over why it would take 7 years to go from demo to production, I’m with you.

      • Lance

        True im saying in the second sentence that DoD cuts will push this helicopter well into the 2020s before the Army would adopt this chopper.

  • guy

    Why would we need this instead of a couple of fire scouts??

    • TMB

      Guy, read the comments for this article:…

      • Dan Gao

        Thats like asking why the Army should buy a Stryker as opposed to a TALON. Apples to oranges.

    • Belesari

      You mean besides the firescouts terrible performance so far?

      Or the fact that these will be able to fly in a enviroment that has something more dangerous than a taliban with a AK-47.

      • TGR

        Or operate in an environment that prohibits data link operations…

  • KWdude

    Talking to the company reps and test pilots I’m hearing that since it doesn’t have a traditional tail rotor it can literally out turn any conventional helo. Another thing mentioned was that the propeller could be used to create drag if desired therefore reducing the rate speed builds up during a dive. I even think it can reverse thrust. As a scout pilot I know first hand the limitations a tail rotor imposes on combat maneuvering. This thing will revolutionize the industry if it’s given a fair shot. The OH-58D SLEP program is coming online and there’s no reason for the Army not to take a look at the design and seriously consider it. All other alternatives for the AAS don’t even come near this in terms of performance. I hope Sikorsky figures out a way to make the crew doors open and close in flight. Us scout types like stick our heads outside when working low and slow.

    • Cthel

      Well, based on the performance of the only other armed helicopter equipped with a pusher prop (the Cheyenne), this design should be both faster and quicker to accelerate/decelerate than a conventional copter. In addition, the pusher prop should be a powerful airbrake - the one on the Cheyenne was strong enough to enable dive-bombing manuvers to be accomplished.

  • Oudin

    I think coaxial rotor with duct fan fastest best way than tilt rotor.

    • Vulpine

      Tilt-rotor still has the advantage of greater lift and higher forward speed over fixed-rotor designs. Yes, the pusher prop does help boost the speed, but the overhead rotors still have their own speed limits which prevent them from going as fast as the military would like.

      Now, if the overhead rotors were of the sort that could be stopped in flight, making it a high-load fixed-wing craft, you could then see much greater speeds. The problem is that such technology as that is still not fully proven yet.

  • Nadnerbus

    V-22, F-22, F-35… I’m sure the company reps are very confident that the tech is mature and ready to go, but it seems like seven years always turns into ten, or 12, and that costs double by the time something like this comes to fruition.

    If Sikorsky really wants to prove how confident they are in the maturity of the tech, they can offer a fixed price for their bid now. The design looks amazing, and it sounds like it would be a very capable aircraft. But I’m not in a hurry to have taxpayer-expense R&D for the next decade to get this thing just up to the tart of production. And when all the budget cuts start to be felt, I doubt the Army will have the budget to do so anyway.

    • Dfens

      Yeah, that 7 years sounds like the same crap we got with the F-22 and F-35. They can build an aircraft from scratch in a couple years and fly it, but it takes a decade or more to build a production model? It all has to do with who’s paying the bill. When it’s the company they can get development done real quick. When it is the US taxpayer, then everything takes 10 times longer than it should.

      • fromage

        Cost-plus makes a difference.

    • Jeff

      Remember this is self-funded… and given the landscape of the military industry, self-funded is a pretty high level of confidence.

  • orly?

    Everyone says not using common parts will ultimately increase costs/decrease reliability.

    Just how much do you think this project will cost before even making a prototype?

    • Jeff

      Does it matter?-Its Sikorsky’s self-funded prototype. If everything had to start with common parts nothing new would ever be created. Sikorsky has told its investors its intent is to utilize these technologies in commercial models of helicopters. So they’re putting the higher demand utility ahead of commonality and building up commonality in a secondary market.

  • Infidel4LIFE

    Doesn’t the Coast Guard use Sikorsky helo’s? 250 knots? That is fast, it sounds great..but how do we pay for it?

    • fromage

      The USCG, USN, USA, USMC, and USAF use Sikorsky helos. Most of the world uses Sikorsky helos. And the 250 kt that the X2 can do IS fast - much faster than those other Sikorsky birds. The skepticism I expressed above notwithstanding, it’s paid for through the normal channels of company and government funding. Ask Congress?

      • Paralus

        But it isn’t funded by taxpayers. This is funded solely by Sikorsky’s own money.

        • fromage

          Yes, the S-97 is. And the X2 was. But I4L was asking how *we* pay for it, with “we” implicitly the taxpayer, because we’re talking about the Army’s scout contest, and because it’s overwhelmingly more likely that I4L is just a taxpayer, and not a Sikorsky employee.

  • Vulpine

    The logic of using an existing airframe is that the conversion to military purposes would be cheaper. However, the drawback is that even that existing airframe would have to be beefed up to meet military needs, which increases cost and really doesn’t save that much time.

    The S-79’s technologies were proven separately years ago, it just hasn’t been used in a commercial manner as an integrated whole. The pusher prop proved its ability to take a single-rotor craft more than 100 mph over its non-pusher capability while co-axial craft have been flying for years in both model and full-sized designs. In fact, at least one of the UAC rotorcraft for the Navy is a co-axial design IIRC. Bringing these technologies together eliminates the drawbacks of the two designs separately.

    For that matter, even if one of the main rotors was somehow disabled, if that rotor can be stopped and the other allowed to windmill freely, the craft could still fly as an autogyro to make a safe, rolling landing on almost any field or highway wide enough to permit the rotors to turn.