Sikorsky Unveils S-97 Raider Light-Attack Helo


Helicopter-maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. unveiled its next-generation light-attack helicopter, the S-97 Raider, during a ceremony Thursday in Florida.

The coaxial design features counter-rotating rotor blades and a push propeller, among other innovations, that will allow it to fly much faster and farther than today’s choppers.

“Raider is an all-new helicopter, all-new configuration,” Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering, said at the event. “We haven’t seen something this new in 30 years.”

The Raider was designed to target a potentially $16 billion Army weapons program called the Armed Aerial Scout to develop a replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, one of the smallest aircraft in the U.S. fleet. The service put the acquisition effort on hold due to automatic budget cuts.

Sikorsky, part of United Technologies Corp., and its several dozen suppliers have spent tens of millions of dollars designing and developing coaxial technology, which it wants to sell both domestically and internationally.

The inaugural Raider, rolled out during a glitzy ceremony Thursday at the company’s hangar in Jupiter, Florida, will be one of two built for demonstration purposes and is slated fly later this year from the company’s developmental flight center in West Palm Beach. Most of the flight testing will take place in 2015.

Sikorsky in 2010 and 2011 flew an experimental prototype of the design called the X2 that reached speeds of up to 250 knots, or 290 miles per hour. By comparison, the Kiowa Warrior has a top speed of about 120 knots, or 140 miles per hour.

Sikorsky has also teamed with Boeing Co., which helps make the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in proposing the SB>1 Defiant, a larger coaxial design, for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator program, or JMR.

Promotional information about the Raider can be found at To close, here’s another photo from the ceremony:


About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • tiger

    Not to knock this but, why not buy the Firescout MQ8-C from Northrop Grumman? It’s flying already.

    • vtgunner

      Which is really just a 417….so just buy a 417

    • Lawrence

      Faster, @ to 3 times faster…read.

    • paperpushermj

      Let me guess..You work for Northrop

    • Don

      Anyone remember the Cheyenne?

    • JT Bruce


      OH my god…stop…you’re killing me…I think I ruptured something….bwahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahah

    • Brad

      Because drones can’t carry people?

      • tiger

        Why do you need to carry people? The mission is scouting targets for gunships. Not transport.

      • msgingram

        5 companies are developing drones that will carry personnel, equipment, etc. They will be exposed in 2015

    • Tinto

      Even if, the MQ8-C was equivalent, Northrop does not have the “Influence on the Hill” as Sikorsky.

  • Nice bird!

  • cobradane

    “Armed Aerial Scout to develop a replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, the smallest aircraft in the U.S. fleet.” Huh? I thought the OH-6 Little Bird was the smallest manned rotary wing aircraft in the US inventory.

    • blight_qwerty

      And the Kiowas are going out to save money for the AH-64 fleet.

    • Delta_Raider_1

      Dude it say’s one of the smallest

    • Sera

      You could probably make an argument either way. Depending on the specific model the OH-6 is the same or slightly smaller in terms of length, but the OH-58 is significantly lighter.

    • Seabat

      I flew the OH-6 Little Bird as a Project Pilot during its Combat Survivability Phase.
      That bird was light and nimble and could out fly the OH-58 Kiowa.
      I and others have flown in practice, full auto-rotation from 300 feet to the deck. In the process completed two 360’s to ID a touch down spot, come to a hover 3 foot off the deck, touch down, lift the bird back to a hover , and set down a second time and still had RPM left on the rotor.
      The Hughes Factory Test Pilot, Col. Bob Ferry, USAF (Ret), taught our Project Team many unique feature of that aircraft. The OH-6 was a roughed Bird but lost out to the OH-58.
      The Seabat

  • Lance

    Too little too late we knew AAS was on the chopping block years ago. Kind of a waste building it whan no one will buy it here. Maybe foreign sales???

    • Lurker

      I recall reading somewhere ( perhaps?) that SOCOM is potentially interested in this as a replacement for their MH-6 fleet. And there’s still a chance that the AAS competition or something similar will be reinitiated in the next couple of years, sequestration hurst but it won’t last forever. To say no one will buy it here is rather premature, I think.

      I certainly hope we can find a place in the fleet for this, really it’s the fist significant advance in rotorcraft technology in a long time! And developed without a massive procurement mess on top of that. It would be a shame if we looked such a gift horse in the mouth.

    • Observer

      Sorry Lance, but you a world away from reality.

      AAS is on hold pending the Raider (or a similar) program which promises speed, PAX and modern airframe safety technology and not an OTS commercial platform painted green.

    • Curt

      How about as an S76 replacement? Take off and land like a helo but fly twice as fast, without a tail rotor. Yeah, can’t see anyone wanting something like that for air taxi service or air ambulance work.

  • Taylor

    The S97 looks like a great improvement even though it looks like a food processor with all the blades. I hope tiger is kidding. The cruise speed of the MQ8-C is 130 knots and it is unmanned so its situational awareness would be low. The MQ8 is an unmanned supply delivery helicopter. The S97 could almost keep up with an Osprey if they needed fire support.

    • tiger

      No, not kidding. You have gunships & transports already. Scouting targets can be a unmanned function.

  • Robbie

    Plus it can carry 6 troops for SpecOps insertion or medevac. I sure hope the engine-start APU also provides power for ground maintenance, too. That’s great to have in an austere expeditionary environment when you don’t have the usual support equipment along….

  • Kole

    I saw concepts of this thing on display by Sikorsky in 2012 when I was @ Airventure. Thing is incredibly small.

  • CDS

    Heck, I just like the idea of a private company saying “here’s something we put together and think fits what you’re looking for”. It seems that almost every time the military tries to sit in the driver’s seat for R&D of a vehicle, no matter what the product is, it turns into a politics-laden money pit. The individuals sitting in DC cannot tell Sikorsky where they will be making their widgets.

  • Turk

    That thing is dead sexy. Looks like the grand child of the AH-56 Cheyenne….

  • William_C1

    If the US Army can’t find a role for this they’re not thinking hard enough. Just because the OH-58 is being retired doesn’t mean a scout helo wouldn’t be useful.

    I’m sure the special forces types might be interested too. The Osprey is a bit big for a lot of roles.

  • Bill Chunko

    Cessna is doing something similar (developing a potential military aircraft with it’s own money) with the Scorpion.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    So let the Osprey slow down a bit so this can keep up, and you have an armed escort, as was noted above. And it can carry 4-6 armed men? Sounds to me like it’s made for operations of the kind we’re recommending in Iraq. AND it would give Sikorsky a big forward jump in the helo market, here and abroad, for a few years; military production numbers would carry the concept quickly into civilian use. It all sounds good to me.

    • Donnie

      Don’t need to slow the Ospreys, just launch the Raiders earlier. Armed escort is needed in the operations area, rarely for enroute security.

    • tiger

      The Army has CH-47’s, not Ospreys. Apaches are armed & Blackhawks carry more.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    For “recommending” read “re-commencing.”

  • Benjamin

    well its originally made from the X2, that’s the basic design of the aircraft. only this is a combat version of the aircraft that they would like to build for the us military. the X2 was designed and built in Elmira/horseheads NY. where Sikorsky aircraft decided to take the aircraft to a Florida location to do final tests along with high speed tests (which broke the air speed record for any rotor craft in the world) the aircraft was originally designed to be a in and out sort of aircraft, or a speedy medevac aircraft. capable of handling areal combat situations if required but not officially made or designed for such encounters currently. but i’m sure since I did anything with the X2 in Elmira, Sikorsky has added a lot more to the S97 than it did to its little brother the X2 it will be more than combat/medevac capable. either way it is an amazing aircraft no matter what anyone wants to say!

  • paperpushermj

    Can’t say I like the Gunpod Idea. You have to skew the whole platform to get the gun on target.

    • blight_qwerty

      That’s also a problem with fixed wing gun runs…A-10 or not.

      • paperpushermj

        In the real world there would be two gunners, one on each side

    • True, but helicopters can fly sideways or even backwards.

    • Menzie

      Yes but the pop up, aim, fire idea works great with this. If it has a rotor mounted radar to pre target, all the “driver” has to do is swing to that bearing, pop up and press the trigger. Too simple.

  • bart hooliman

    The Russians have already fielded this helicopter

    • Ken

      Oh really? I didn’t realize they had a coaxial helo with a propeller on the rear that was the fastest production helo in the world.

  • Klavs81

    Not to nitpick, but aren’t these blades contra-rotating, not counter rotating? I believe there is a pretty significant difference.

    • 45K20E4

      I had to look it up, but you are correct (thank you, Wikipedia).

      I think it’s slick. Always good to see free-market at work. Now if the military would just consider these programs and scrap their wasteful procurement process we’d be all set.

  • Eggshen

    As a ground guy that relied heavily on Apache and Kiowa support in Iraq I am excited to see some advancements in loiter time and speed. I can’t count the number of times my Kiowa support would have to leave station because of fuel. The bad guys always waited until our air was gone to initiate contact. This problem was exacerbated in Afghanistan due to the long distances from the main air bases and the COPs/FOBs that needed the support on short notice (A-10’s fill that role better than any). It looks small, fast, agile, has long legs, and looks killer sexy…what’s not to like? The fly-guys can talk armament but I will say from up-close personal experience that nothing ends a firefight like a 30mm cannon and a few well placed hellfire shots.

    • paperpushermj

      Thank You For Your Service

  • CGaviator

    Looks like a good candidate to replace Coast Guard HITRON helos and also as a rescue helo

    • blight_qwerty

      Guessing when it comes time to replace HH-65 they’ll look to Sikorsky. I wonder why they went with the AS365 the first time around…

  • Dave Barnes

    What kind of American Indian name is that?

  • gunnygil

    Appears to need more hard points for armament.

    • paperpushermj

      That’s an add on left to the buyer

      • Menzie

        Or mission specific pods, possibly even an internal bay, who knows.

  • Joe

    Looks great. however, remember remember the cheyanne

  • Dalton

    Awesome speed were are you going to put the weponds

  • Richard

    Nice design for the Army Light Attack Aircraft for replacement of the OH-58’s….too bad on the budget….maybe if they wouldn’t buy on the over-kill on aircraft and other equipment that is still sitting in mothballs they would have money to buy……nice design for AF for CSAR and not for a Attack helicopter…..

  • Bill

    sweet looks like a kicked up 60

  • Kostas

    I look forward to seeing a side by side comparison of tilt rotor vs contrarotating/push propeller technologies.

  • melvin strong

    There is one better than this one

  • captlou

    Awesome aircraft. SAC ran a skunk-works operation to get this designed quickly, using many off the shelf subsystems. Great job.

  • Barry Flynn

    The Soviets had two different copters with coaxial blades in service in the early 1980’s. I saw them in operation in the Med. The pusher prop is a nice addition though. I still think air nozzles in the blades is a lighter, simpler way to eliminate the tail rotor. All the complexity and weight of two gearboxes, complex bearing assemblies adds huge costs to building and maintaining an aircraft. The ducted air also permits cold weather flying do to the hot air warming the blades to prevent icing.

  • looks like a lighter & newly build Cheyenne AH-56 version :)

  • Mystick

    I bet it’s going to be loud with all those different pressure fronts meeting at those angles.

  • miller

    Hard to tell whether the helicopter is better at killing those inside or outside (by crashing or otherwise).

    How many engine fires and critical technical failures has it had during the development and testing cycle?

  • John M

    Egads! Someone just reinvented the Auto-Gyro!

  • msgingram

    I just wish we would get the ball rolling and buy the doggone things, whichever we decide on. It may take years for the purchase, modifications, and delivery. So lets just get going.