By Bijan Razzaghi
The Lockheed Martin- Sikorsky S-97 Raider technology demonstrator first flown on May 22nd 2015 has provided the US Military a design that can fulfill many roles currently taken up by light helicopters. The aircraft is the first compound helicopter demonstrator flown and will soon be followed by the SB-1 Defiant demonstrator. The current DoD program that the S-97 is suited for is the FARA (Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft) to fill in the role previously taken by the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior retired in 2014. The S-97 Raider design can also be suited for the Special Operations role currently taken by the MH-6 and AH-6 Little Bird light helicopter. The S-97 Raider brings the US Army capabilities that were previously not available with traditional helicopters such as speed, maneuverability and altitude.
For the Future Attack and Reconnaissance the S-97 Raider Technology Demonstrator concept showed a similar armament configuration as the OH-58D which included a 2.75 inch rocket pod and a 12.7 mm gun pod. Other concepts showed AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and a nose turret mounted machine gun. The S-97 will be able to move ahead of the JMR FVL aircraft and identify and strike critical targets ahead of the main assault force. The light weight and speed of the Raider makes it a hard target for enemy air defenses especially during nap of the earth flight. The FVL fly off is set to start in November of 2022.
For Special Operations missions the S-97 Raider has a cabin that can fit as many as 6 fully armed combat troops and can cruise at 253 mph (407 km/h). This is twice the speed of the current MH-6 platform used for rapid insertions. The S-97 can also fly at higher altitudes and pull as many as 3 gs. The maneuverability greatly enhances the aircraft’s survivability.
The S-97 Raider could possibly see a production variant sooner if ordered by Special Operations forces such as the 160th SOAR while the FARA program will likely delver an operational platform between 2027 and 2030.
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