Unveiled last October, the American Sikorsky S-97 Raider conducted its maiden flight on 22 May. The hybrid helicopter flew for about an hour over West Palm Beach Florida, where it is assembled, and was an opportunity for the two test pilots on board to perform a series of hover and low speed manoeuvres.
Launched five years ago, the S-97 programme is based on the technology developed from the Sikorsky X2 demonstrator. The 5 metric tonne (11,000 lb.) aircraft, is 11 metres (36 feet) long, equipped with a General Electric 2,600 horsepower engine, coaxial counter-rotating main rotors, and main feature tail-mounted pusher propeller; intended to give the S-97 a higher top speed of around 440 km/h (280 mph).
This technological breakthrough should also provide this latest Sikorsky with better handling and high altitude performance than current helicopters. Capable of carrying six troops, the S-97 Raider interests the US military for the carrying out of reconnaissance missions and special operations.
Following the prototype’s first flight, a second unit should be assembled by the end of the year, with a demonstration tour planned for 2016.