Vertical spoke with Sikorsky prior to the show to get an update on the Raider, the first prototype of which is currently undergoing assembly at Sikorsky's facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. "The assembly's progressing really well," said Steve Weiner, chief engineer for Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development division that created the X2 and is now leading development on the S-97.
According to Weiner
, the Raider is benefiting from the same digital design and modeling process that has facilitated development of the CH-53K, creating a virtual three-dimensional model of the aircraft that can be used to resolve engineering conflicts before assembling the real thing.
"The digital design and modeling is really reducing the time it takes to put it together," he
said that the S-97 Raider is still on track to complete its first flight "before the end of the year," although he
did not provide more specifics.
confirmed that Sikorsky
is pressing ahead with the aircraft, despite the fact that the United States Army
has delayed its pursuit of a modern helicopter for the Armed Aerial Scout
program aimed to replace the Army's fleet of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters with either a new-start program like the Raider, or one of the commercial-off-the-shelf helicopters that were also offered as contenders.
In January, however, the Army announced that, due to budget constraints, it would be leveraging its existing fleet of AH-64 Apache helicopters in combination with unmanned systems as an interim solution for the armed aerial scout role.
"There is still a long-term requirement for an armed aerial scout," said Weiner
, explaining that Sikorsky
is betting on the Army re-evaluating its requirements in the future.
said the company was encouraged by the outbrief it received after meeting with the Army as part of the AAS request for information process: "We had effectively no deficiencies. . . . I think they regarded us from a risk level as low."
Meanwhile, work is also progressing on the Defiant, Sikorsky
and Boeing's joint proposal for the Army's Joint Multi Role/Future Vertical Lift (JMR/FVL) program.