The evolution of the helicopter has had immeasurable impact on modern warfare. While they initially focused primarily on quicker deployment of troops and supplies to forward areas, the evolution of onboard weapons systems has made these aircraft a vital component in attack and troop support strategies.
Channeling both areas of the helicopter’s storied wartime history, Sikorsky and Boeing recently unveiled a first look at the SB>1 Defiant. The aircraft is designed to fly at twice the speed and range of current conventional helos with what the companies describe as “advanced agility and maneuverability.”
It will also play a key role in the Army's Future Vertical Lift program.
The Defiant is positioned as a fully integrated aircraft designed for attack and assault missions as well as long-range transportation, infiltration and resupply initiatives.
Helping deliver the aircraft’s advanced speed, handling and reliability is the X2 rigid co-axial rotor system. It features two coaxial rotors on top of the helo that rotate in opposite directions. This extra lift from each rotor balances out the diminished lift from the opposite side’s retreating blade. Not only does this improve lift and maneuverability, but helps to eliminate stall, which is perhaps the biggest fear of helicopter usage.
This system should also improve part life and increase overall reliability.
More powerful forward thrust comes from a pusher propulsor mounted on the back of the aircraft, which is responsible for that increased speed, as well as overall maneuverability and agility when hovering or flying at low or high speeds. These designs will also enable the Defiant to fly in tight assault formations with close proximity landings.
In addition to technological advancements, the aircraft’s open architecture design will help the DoD control costs. Developed with 85 percent commonality between current attack and assault aircraft means the Defiant could reduce development and life-cycle costs.
The Defiant is currently participating in the Army's Joint Multi-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program, with this data helping to get the Defiant and other utility helicopters into service by the early 2030s.