In 2011, the US Army funded the Joint MultiRole Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) program, the first step in replacing all military helicopters with a new type of vertical-lift aircraft. The S-97 Raider offers a first glimpse at this new class of rotorcraft, known as a compound-coaxial helicopter. Sikorsky Aircraft, a major defense contractor and developer of the Raider, plans to have a production-ready model in 2015.
Two rotors that turn in opposite directions on a central mast enable the S-97 Raider to fly at speeds up to 275 mph, more than 100 mph faster than a conventional helicopter, with nearly twice the range.
According to Popular Mechanics, the UH-60 Black Hawk will be the first helicopter to be retired by this future class of rotorcraft. The S-97 Raider is just one of the emerging new generation of highly advanced aircraft that may completely redefine vertical-lift aviation. Replacing the Black Hawk will be very big shoes to fill, as it is widely-used with great effectiveness in combat by all branches of the military, including Special Operation Forces.
The UH-60 and all of its variants have proven track records on the battlefield ever since it was first introduced in 1979. The FVL (Future Vertical Lift) Medium project will be replacing several different widely used helicopters, including the Black Hawk, and it will not commence until the early-to-mid 2020’s. The S-97 Raider will be the first of this new generation.
The primary goal of this drastic sweep of modern day helicopters is to create faster, more nimble, and longer range craft to counter the constant evolution of the battlefield. Little information, other than what has been made known to the public, is known about the full capability of the S-97 Raider, though reportedly it will be airborne next year.
With billions of dollars at stake, defense contractors are keeping a tight lid on information related to the aircraft’s design secrets. Hopefully, this does not turn into another fiasco like the F-35 program, which turned out to be a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.