Sikorsky’s Defiant helicopter completes its flight of 700 nautical miles

Will it be the next Black Hawk?
Ameya Paleja
Technology demonstrator Defiant SB>1 in flightHoneywell

Lockheed Martin Sikorsky's Defiant helicopter has completed its farthest flight so far, taking a 700-mile trip, the company said in its press release.

The helicopter built in collaboration with the American aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, is vying for the place of the next Black Hawk helicopter for the U.S. Army. Lockheed Martin has announced that Defiant made its first flight outside Florida, where it has been undergoing tests for the past three years. The recent flight from West Palm Beach in Florida to Nashville was undertaken to showcase the aircraft at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit. 

Sikorsky’s Defiant helicopter completes its flight of 700 nautical miles
SB>1 DEFIANT® helicopter flew 700 nautical miles from West Palm Beach, Florida to Nashville to give U.S. Army Aviators a first-hand look at the aircraft.  Source: Lockheed Martin

The Defiant X

The defining characteristic of Defiant X is the dual rotors on top that rotate in opposite directions. The makers are confident that the helicopter will be twice as fast as the current Black Hawks along with the propeller at the back.

Although the propeller looks much like a tail rotor meant to counter the torque of the main rotors, its function on the Defiant is actually to help the aircraft control its speed. Since the counter-rotating rotors manage to counter the torque they produce as well, the tail rotor becomes available for other functions, such as allowing the Defiant to cross the speed of 245 knots

An added advantage is that even if the tail were hit, the Defiant would be able to return back to base, unlike other helicopters that simply spin out of control. 

Findings from the long trip

The 700-nautical miles trip that saw the technology demonstrator Defiant SB>1 fly over multiple U.S. states was made at an average speed of 200 mph with a couple of fuel stops in between, Popular Science reported

The fuel burn was less than expected, and the aircraft used less than 50 percent of the engine power available as well as propulsor torque.

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“This monumental flight further proves the maturity of the DEFIANT design and that it is ready to support the Army’s future long-range assault (FLARA) missions,” said Mark Cherry, Boeing Vice President and General Manager of Vertical Lift. 

In February, we had also reported a DARPA project that used Sikorsky's Matrix to fly a Black Hawk helicopter without a pilot for 30 minutes. The technology that can rapidly be fitted onto a helicopter could also be a feature of Defiant X if the U.S. Army makes its choice for the FLARA program. 

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