It steams up eyeglasses and feels like an iron on your skin.
Perhaps a spy sent by Bell, Sikorsky’s chief competitor for the contract to build the Department of Defense’s next generation of vertical-lift aircraft.
But any resentment about Sikorsky’s decision to test its radical new S-97 Raider prototype at its facility in West Palm Beach vanishes as the helicopter’s 2,600 horsepower turbine engine spooled up on the runway and the dual, counterrotating rotors above the fuselage start spinning, out-blowing any ocean breeze.
Sikorsky touts the Raider, with its so-called compound design, including stacked (or “coaxial”) rotors and a rear-facing propeller in place of the familiar side-facing tail rotor, as fast, quiet, and highly maneuverable.
The Lockheed Martin-owned defense firm is pitching it as a replacement for today’s light attack and scout helicopters, via the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program.
“To survive going in and out, you also need to be able to fly very low to hide amid the clutter—close to the ground in obstacle-rich, high-threat environments,” says Chris Van Buiten, head of Sikorsky Innovations.