Sikorsky-Boeing team unveils Defiant X for US Army’s FLRAA campaign

The Sikorsky-Boeing team behind the SB>1 Defiant technology demonstrator has released the first details of the Defiant X coaxial compound helicopter as its offering for the US Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) campaign.

The Defiant X was unveiled on January 25 as the final configuration for the complete weapon system that will be offered to the US Army under the FLRAA programme. Both firms boasted that the platform – which has been designed to replace the service’s venerable Black Hawk fleet – “will be the fastest, most manoeuvrable and most survivable assault helicopter in history.”

Defiant X [Sikorsky-Boeing]
The Sikorsky-Boeing team unveiled the Defiant X - the final configuration of the weapon system it is offering the US Army under the FLRAA project on January 25, 2021. Sikorsky-Boeing

Although it features airframe enhancements to improve its aerodynamics and reduce its overall thermal signature, the Defiant X is almost identical to the SB>1 Defiant technology demonstrator. The Defiant X will continue to build on the capabilities and handling qualities that were proven and matured by the SB>1, which was developed and trialled under the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme.

Andy Adams, vice president of Future Vertical Lift (FVL) at Sikorsky, said: “We are ready to deliver unparalleled capabilities backed by proven technologies that will truly transform the Army’s mission today – with room to grow and adapt to the missions of tomorrow. Defiant X not only includes the transformational aircraft, mission systems and revolutionary sustainment solution, but also leverages Sikorsky’s and Boeing’s advanced manufacturing capabilities.”

Notably, the Defiant X employs a compound fuselage, rigid coaxial main rotor system, pusher propeller and a retractable tricycle landing gear. It exploits Sikorsky’s X2 technology to enable it to operate at high speeds while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. The platform has been designed to fly long-range missions and boasts an enhanced survivability and an open systems architecture that will allow it to be constantly adapted to remain ahead of new and emerging threats.

Defiant X [Sikorsky-Boeing]
The Defiant X has been designed to ultimately replace the US Army's Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk fleets from 2030. It will be used to conduct a variety of missions and will be able to fly faster and farther when compared to the UH-60. Sikorsky-Boeing

Steve Parker, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift, added: “Defiant X is purpose-built for a modernised [US] Army that requires expanded reach, survivability and lethality. This weapon system will give soldiers unequalled technological advantages and connectivity over adversaries in a multi-domain battlespace.”

The companies add that the Defiant X will “revolutionise the army’s air assault capability with limited changes in tactics, techniques, procedures, training and infrastructure, while maintaining the Black Hawk helicopter footprint and tight formation capability flown today.”

The US Army’s FLRAA campaign falls under its wider FVL portfolio, which intends to completely recapitalise its rotorcraft fleet with a family of military helicopters that share common hardware, such as engines and avionics. As part of the programme, Sikorsky-Boeing’s Defiant X is competing against Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor, which is currently undergoing a flight test campaign.

SB>1 Defiant [Sikorsky]
Sikorsky-Boeing's SB>1 Defiant technology demonstrator (pictured) first graced the skies on March 21, 2019. The Defiant X will continue to build on the capabilities and handling qualities that have been proven and matured under the US Army's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme. Sikorsky

FLRAA is running parallel with the service’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) project, which will ultimately select a replacement for the US Army’s now-retired Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet. Both Bell and Sikorsky are competing in this programme with the 360 Invictus and Raider X respectively.

The US Army is expected to release a request for proposal (RFP) for the FLRAA campaign later this year, with a contract award expected to take place in 2022. As per current plans, the service intends to introduce its desired platform – either the Defiant X or V-280 Valor – into service from 2030.