Sikorsky believes its X2 technology could be the ideal basis for an aircraft for the Next Generation RotorCraft Capability (NGRC) program to develop a new medium-lift helicopter for six NATO members.
At a media briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow, Luigi Piantadosi, director, future vertical lift international at Sikorsky, said the manufacturer is “ready to promote this technology to the international market.”
“Deterrence is now back in fashion and as an industry, we feel that we need to be able to provide this to our customers — a new transformation rotorcraft technology,” he said.
“NATO, now more than ever, must work as one force due to the new emerging threats. The X2 technology increases speed, range, and connectivity on the battlefield. Its mature technology that is scalable for the customer.”
Jay Macklin, director, Army, Future Vertical Lift, and innovations S&BD at Sikorsky’s parent company Lockheed Martin, said the company has “scaled” the X2 technology three times since 2008, which has led to the Raider and Defiant entries for the U.S. Army’s FARA and FLRAA competitions.
“We’ve learnt lessons on every aircraft we have built, and we see the applicability of speed, low-level and high manoeuvrability flight as critical beyond 2030, and you can’t accomplish [that] with a single main rotor.”
What is currently limiting the speed of military helicopters is retreating blade stall. On a coaxial design, this does not occur. Macklin said the company’s configuration and use of the rear prop would allow the helicopter to hover in a nose-down attitude if necessary, and accelerate and decelerate in a level-body attitude. Beyond 2030, this performance capability will be essential, not just for the U.S. Army.
Piantadosi told the media that Lockheed Martin was bringing a fifth-generation helicopter to the market.
“We are happy that NATO has signed a study for the NGRC, and we will watch this program with interest.”
Although the NGRC is focused on a requirement for a medium-lift platform, Macklin added: “As the requirements are developed from this study, we can scale this technology and we believe that we have solutions for this requirement that NATO will come up with. But it’s a little too early to speculate, but I am confident that X2 technology is the solution.”
Piantadosi said the company had seen “huge interest” in X2 from across Europe, and that it had briefed several nations.
“I think many are waiting to see what the outcome of FLRAA will be, and this may lead to a possible third iteration of a platform that sits between FARA and FLRAA for European interest,” he said. “We are looking at the market. I regard FARA and FLRAA as two bookends which sit on either end of the technology, and we may develop something to sit in between. We have not made the decision yet. What we will offer though will be completely multi-role. It depends on what the NGRC comes up with. This international variant won’t exclusively be built in the U.S.; we will have the option to produce the model in Europe.”