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Blades of Glory: Meet Raider-X, America’s Next-Gen Chopper

This week the helicopter maker Sikorsky — part of Lockheed Martin — unveiled plans for a new craft called the Raider X, an “agile, lethal and survivable compound coaxial helicopter” designed for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. The Sikorsky Raider X is one of five candidates competing to win a contract from the U.S. Army to move on to the next phase of the FARA program. Two will be selected next year for Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase.

The Raider X architecture is based on a previous Sikorsky chopper, the S-97 Raider, and like its predecessor will have an engine built by GE Aviation: The Army has selected GE’s 3,000-shaft-horsepower T901 for the FARA program. Whereas the S-97 was powered by GE’s YT706 engine, GE’s T901 engine for the Raider X provides the capability for a powerful machine to only get more powerful, as Tim Malia, Sikorsky’s director of Future Vertical Lift Light, explained to FlightGlobal: “As the T901 engine has a power growth curve over time, we’ll be able to directly harness that with our existing aircraft. Upgrade the engine — you just got more speed, you just got more payload.”

“We just couldn’t be happier to carry on the relationship we have with GE currently flying the YT706,” said Sikorsky test pilot Christiaan Corry. “We are really excited to pull the T901 into the Raider X.” The news continues a winning year for the T901, which in February was selected by the U.S. Army to swap into its existing workhorse helicopters, the Black Hawk and the Apache.

It isn’t hard to see the appeal: The results of decades of research and innovation, the T901 relies on the latest materials like ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) — a breakthrough material that’s 20% stronger and two-thirds lighter than its metal counterparts — and advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D printing. Over time, GE has spent about $9 billion developing these and other technologies at work in the T901, but it’s not just the military that benefits: GE is taking CMCs and 3D printing to a broad range of products, including super-efficient engines for commercial airliners.

Top image credit: Sikorsky/LockheedMartin.

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