Boeing and Sikorsky finally revealed the first prototype of the SB>1 Defiant helicopter. The aircraft will be part of the Joint-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program of the U.S. Army and seeks to define the advanced features of a new family of military helicopters that must be put into service in the early 2030s.
Under the Future Vertical Lift program, the U.S. Army plans to develop a technology capable of producing faster, more manoeuvrable helicopters than today’s UH-60 Blackhawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook.
In addition to Boeing and Sikorsky, Bell is competing in the program with the V-280 Valor, a tilt-rotor that has been flying since the end of 2017. SB>1 Defiant is late: the first flight is now scheduled for 2019.
If Bell and Boeing are partners in the V-22 Osprey, the first military tilt-rotor to come into operation in the world, the two companies decided to take different directions in the face of the challenge posed by the U.S. Army. While Bell preferred to stay with tilt-rotor technology, Boeing chose another partner, Sikorsky who already invested in counter-rotating coaxial rotors.
To provide the desired speed (twice the current helicopters) the Defiant has pusher propellers that can have their angle of attack adjusted. The use of composite materials in the fuselage and the rigid rotor, technology patented by Sikorsky with the name of X2, provide other advantages to the project.
The next decade promises to be an interesting stage for the future of helicopters.