NATO’s Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) program was formally launched in June after six European NATO allies agreed to contribute €26.7 million. While many contractors have their eye on the advanced chopper program, Lockheed Martin has already pitched for X2.
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The six countries following the program are France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Although Spain and the United States had previously expressed interest, they decided not to participate in the program.
A month after the NGRC program was officially launched, the executives of Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky presented the X2 coaxial rotorcraft to European customers at the Farnborough air show.
The main feature of the X2 aircraft family is a coaxial, twin main rotor unit that is connected to a propeller positioned at the rear to produce additional forward thrust.
Sikorsky claims this design is far superior in speed and maneuverability to the traditional single main rotor layout used by most utility lift helicopters, with the most recent X2 versions reaching cruising speeds in excess of 230 kt (425 km/h). ).
“That’s something you honestly can’t get with a single main rotor,” said Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s director of the U.S. military’s future vertical lift programs. Sikorsky said it was confident in the S-70M Black Hawk’s ability to meet Britain’s need for 44 new medium-sized helicopters in a separate development.
Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability aims to replace at least a thousand of the current generation of medium multi-purpose helicopters, such as the NH90 and the AW101 Merlin, by 2035, about when many of today’s operational helicopters will reach the end of their lifecycle.
The most critical requirement was that the helicopter have a top speed of about 220 knots (253 mph), which seems to consider all tilt-rotor, hybrid, or other non-traditional helicopter designs.
The NGRC also required a range of about 1,180 miles, twice as far as modern helicopters can travel. Finally, according to an insider source who spoke to Breaking Defense, it should be affordable.
The six NATO countries using the same system would have clear interoperability benefits and should, at least on paper, help keep costs down by buying in bulk. However, the agreement does not oblige the countries to jointly purchase a final design.
Another American aerospace giant, Boeing, had expressed an interest in developing the next generation of helicopters. Boeing’s Senior Director of Vertical Sales and Business Development, Mike Spencer, said in June that “the company’s involvement is likely to consist of “a partner strategy with one or more European manufacturers”.
European industry leaders also seem to be watching the program with great interest. An Airbus-led consortium, NATO Helicopter Industries (NHI), which produces the NH90 helicopters, recently announced a new contract with better features after the helicopter was scrapped by the Netherlands, as it would threaten its chances against the NGRC program .
Sikorsky’s X2 Rotorcraft Technology
Sikorsky is considering a third type of its X2 twin-main-rotor helicopter design between the smaller, attack-oriented Raider and the larger Defiant it is creating for US military competitions. The new version is produced internationally.
The DefiantX and RaiderX, two of Lockheed and Sikorsky’s X2 platforms, are being promoted as potential contenders for the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift program, which is seeking new utilities and reconnaissance helicopters.
While European customers are mostly silent pending the US military’s decision to pit Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor against Sikorsky-Boeing DefiantX, Luigi Piantodosi, director of future vertical lift international for Sikorsky, claims there is currently a “great interest ” in the X2 technology.
Both the larger DefiantX that Sikorsky is developing with Boeing for the Future Long-Range Attack Aircraft competition and the smaller RaiderX helicopter that Sikorsky designed for the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft competition serve as “bookends” in terms of size for the X2 design.
“Maybe we need a new variant that’s in between the two,” Luigi Piantadosi, Sikorsky’s director of future vertical lift international, told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow. “What exactly? We have to decide. This is a very scalable technology.”
Sikorsky would not elaborate further on the variant’s specs, leaving the potential power source unclear. The GE Aviation T901 engine, made as part of the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program, will power the RaiderX.
The DefiantX is powered by Honeywell T55s, while GE YT706s power the modern S-97 Raider demonstration.
According to Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s director of Future Vertical Lift, the Modular Open Systems Architecture architecture of the Future Vertical Lift candidates will be transferred to the future new variant that can be equipped for numerous tasks.