I spent part of the day yesterday at the Association of the US Army's Aviation Symposium here in the DC area and among other interesting things, got my first exposure to an experimental Sikorsky helicopter that could change the paradigm of rotor wing aviation.
I remember way back in the day when Sikorsky purchased Schweitzer helicopter company (the forebears of the MQ-8B Firescout helo-drone) and planned to turn that shop into the rotor wing equivalent of Lockheed's Skunk Works.
Well, it looks like they've turned out a very interesting product in the new X2 Technology Demonstrator.
According to Doug Shidler, VP for Sikorsky's Army Programs office, it was only recently -- and with the help of new technology flight tested on the Army's Rascal (rotorcraft aircrew systems concept airborne laboratory) UH-60 tech demonstrator -- was the company able to incorporate mature systems that didn't make the X2 so unstable it couldn't fly for very long.
"There's a lot of technology that we're applying that we learned on the Comanche program and that we're learning on the [Blackhawk] upgrade program that we're applying right now," Shidler said. "It will demonstrate a lot of different things that we had difficulties with in the '70s and '80s. ... What we've done is apply a lot of the technologies that we've learned developing and embodied in our platforms today and to go ahead and develop this new platform."
The X2 features a set of two counter-rotating blades and a rear-mounted propulsion blade. The goal is to get the aircraft to speeds in the 250 kt range -- which puts it in close competition with the Osprey's specs, but of course the V-22 is operational and can carry a load of troops.
Sikorsky claims this technology can be applied for light attack, light transport, SAR and intermediate commercial applications, and Shidler hinted that it could be used for heavy lift.
Their literature on the X2 claims the configuration will allow for increased payload, improved range, low downwash and cheaper price.
Shidler showed a slide that said Sikorsky had conducted a successful test flight in August.