Sikorsky’s first Raider X prototype is more than 85% complete

Sikorsky announced on April 4 that the production of its Raider X competitive prototype (CP) for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme – a part of the service’s wider Future Vertical Lift (FVL) portfolio – is now more than 85% complete.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, stated that the CP is “progressing 50% faster through production and assembly compared to legacy platforms and resulting in a cost-effective, transformational aircraft.” The coaxial compound helicopter is now “weight on wheels” at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Raider X, which Sikorsky has begun powering on, has accomplished nearly 50% of required System Acceptance Test procedures,” the firm added.

Production of first Raider X CP more than 85% complete 04-04-22 [Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky]
The production of Sikorsky's Raider X CP is now more than 85% complete. The aircraft is seen here under construction at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky

In addition to the progress being made on the first CP airframe, Sikorsky has confirmed that production of a second FARA fuselage is now complete. This second fuselage will be inducted into the company’s structural test programme and will be used to validate the flight/ground load capabilities of the airframe. Such testing will support the Raider X CP flight safety programme and provide additional data that can be used to further optimise and accelerate the platform’s design process.

Pete Germanowski, FARA chief engineer at Sikorsky, said: “We took an innovative approach with our second CP fuselage. The second fuselage has not only increased the efficiency of the build and test of our first CP aircraft, [but it also] gives us the option to build it out as a second CP aircraft, providing us with more flexibility and greater risk reduction.”

The Raider X is one of two prototypes being considered by the US Army as a successor to the service’s now-retired fleet of Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior light attack/scout helicopters under the FARA project. Sikorsky’s offering will face-off against Bell’s 360 Invictus in a competitive fly-off campaign, which is due to start in November 2022 and conclude in late 2023. As per current plans, the US Army intends to start fielding its desired platform operationally from 2028.

Concept image of Sikorsky's Raider X in combat configuration [Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky]
This concept image shows Sikorsky’s Raider X light attack/scout helicopter in its combat configuration. While the initial munitions load has yet to be determined for the platform, this rendering shows what appears to be AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles fitted to the doors of its large internal weapons bay. The helicopter will also feature a cannon under the nose. Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky

The compound coaxial helicopter features much of the same technology that was proved by the X2 experimental prototype before the latter was retired in 2011. Due to this, the Raider X shares many similarities with the X2, including a coaxial rigid main rotor system, a pusher propeller with clutch and a smooth, blended composite fuselage with a retractable undercarriage. The type also features modular open systems architecture (MOSA)-based avionics and mission systems to offer the US Army ‘plug-and-play’ options that are tailorable for specific operational requirements.

Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky President, added: “Our transformational Raider X will deliver broad benefits to the Army, including the lowest schedule risk and greatest technical maturity of the FARA competitors. With X2 technology, Raider X has the ability to grow, unlike a single-main rotor configuration. We’re looking to the future and we are committed to helping the Army deter threats and defend freedoms well into the 21st century.”