This helicopter is hella fast: a Sikorsky-Boeing has announced that the experimental helicopter prototype SB-1 Defiant competing to replace the Army's UH-60 Black Hawk has hit a major speed milestone.
The helicopter completed a flight at nearly 236 mph (205 knots), and is just a few months shy away from exceeding 290 mph (250 knots).
The compound co-axial helicopter was flying at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach Development Flight Test Center in Florida, on June 9, according to Boeing and Sikorsky's announcement.
Achieved using less than 50% of the helicopter's installed power
Sikorsky chief test pilot Bill Fell stated that Defiant reached the said speeds during the flight test while using less than 50% of the helicopter's installed power.
During a video conference call on June 16, he stated, "Two hundred and five knots is just a number, but it’s a number that you’re not typically accustomed to hearing with respect to a helicopter. Expect a lot more in the future because we have a lot more prop power to apply in this machine.
"If we have it our way, the only thing that will limit us is the amount of power that those engines can produce to put thrust into that pusher prop."
Reaching 290 mph
In the following months, the Sikorsky-Boeing team will push for the helicopter to reach 290 mph, which is above the U.S. Army's cruise speed requirement for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program.
Defiant is currently competing with Bell's V-280 Valor advanced tiltrotor, which has flown at 345 mph, to become the Army's FLRAA Defiant.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sikorsky and Boeing are continuing to collect data; however, they are doing it so by taking social distancing precautions to protect employees. The safety measures have somewhat shifted the testing timeline but overall, everything seems to be on schedule.
Fell stated, "If we fly once a week, we’re pretty happy with that, and if we fly every other week, we’re happy with that as well. But we have to continue to make progress and run the test stand."