Sikorsky Exploring Third ‘X2’ Twin Rotor Military Helicopter
FARNBOROUGH—Sikorsky is exploring a third variant of its X2 twin-main-rotor helicopter design, situated between the smaller, attack-focused Raider and the larger Defiant it is designing for U.S. Army competitions, with the new version to be built internationally.
The announcement comes as NATO has kicked off its study for a Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability, looking for land-based transport and assault mission-focused aircraft that can fly faster and longer than the current fleet. Participants in this stage are France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. Additionally, multiple nations have expressed frustration with their current NH90 fleets, with Norway abandoning the aircraft and Sweden possibly following suit.
Sikorsky’s smaller Raider X helicopter, designed for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft competition, and the larger Defiant X it is designing with Boeing for the Future Long-Range Attack Aircraft competition, are two “bookends” in size for the X2 design.
“We might need to have a new variant that really sits in between the two,” Luigi Piantadosi, Sikorsky’s director of future vertical lift international, tells reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow. “What exactly? We have to decide. … This is a very scalable technology.”
Sikorsky did not expand on the specifics for the variant, leaving a question hanging over its potential powerplant. The Raider X will be powered by the GE Aviation T901 developed as part of the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program. The current S-97 Raider demonstrator is powered by the GE YT706, while the Defiant is powered by Honeywell T55s.
The company also did not specify exactly where the third variant would be built, though it would likely be in Europe. Sikorsky owns PZL Mielec in Poland, which already produces variants of its H-60 Black Hawk series of helicopters.
Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s director of Future Vertical Lift, says the Modular Open Systems Architecture design in the Future Vertical Lift entrants will translate to the potential new variant being able to be outfitted for multiple roles.
“You all have seen how a lot of these weapons systems can move on and off the aircraft very, very easily. And so having the capability to have … strictly the attack reconnaissance aircraft or to have passengers in the back or a combination of both, that capability exists,” Macklin says. “We feel like we bookend X2, and there is a very exciting possibility …. and we are in discussions with many countries.”
Sikorsky still sees a possible commercial future for the X2 technology, though no market has yet emerged. The speed the system provides would be applicable for roles such as medical evacuation to bring patients to care faster than current evac helicopters, Macklin says.