Aurora To Design And Fabricate The S-97 RAIDERTM Prototype Airframe


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Aurora To Design And Fabricate The S-97 RAIDERTM Prototype Airframe

By Daniel Baxter

April 5, 2011 - Aurora Flight Sciences announced that it has been selected by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to design and build prototype airframes as part of the S-97 RAIDER program. 

Aurora's design and manufacturing role will take place over the next several years. Applying Sikorsky structural design methodologies, Aurora engineers will design the airframe to meet challenging weight, strength, and stiffness criteria. The airframe will be manufactured and assembled at Aurora's Columbus, Mississippi facility.  

"We are pleased to join Sikorsky's team to develop the S-97 RAIDER prototype," said John Langford, Aurora's President and CEO. "Our demonstrated success in rapid prototyping and our experience in transitioning prototype programs into production were key factors in Sikorsky's decision to select Aurora for this high priority development program." 

The S-97 RAIDER program is based on Sikorsky Aircraft's development of the next-generation X2 Technology rotary wing demonstrator aircraft, which features twin coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher propeller.  The Sikorsky S-97 Raider is a proposed high-speed scout and attack helicopter, under development by Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky plans to offer it for the United States Army's Armed Aerial Scout program, along with other possible uses. 

First proposed in response to a Request for Information for the Armed Aerial Scout program in March 2010, the S-97 was formally launched on October 20, 2010. It is intended as a possible contender for the United States Army's requirement for an Armed Aerial Scout to replace the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Other military roles are possible, with the U.S. Special Operations Command having expressed interest in the concept, and the possibility of adapting it for civilian applications also exists.

Based on the technology from the Sikorsky X2 demonstrator, the prototype S-97s will be powered by a General Electric T700 turboshaft engine, however a more powerful engine, developed under the Improved Turbine Engine Program, is expected to become available. The S-97 will be capable of cruising speeds upwards of 200 knots. 

The S-97 design includes coaxial main rotors and a pusher propeller, making the S-97 a compound helicopter. The S-97 will be capable of carrying up to six passengers, in addition to a flight crew of two in a side-by-side cockpit. However, the production S-97 is projected to be capable of flying with either one or two pilots, or autonomously. Space for a targeting sensor has been reserved, however it will not be installed in the prototype aircraft. 


The S-97 is projected to undergo a program review in 2011, and is expected to make its first flight within 50 months. Sikorsky plans to build two prototypes of the S-97 as demonstrators. One prototype is expected to be used for flight testing, while the second is planned for use as a demonstrator. The first prototype is planned to fly in late 2013 or early 2014 near the release of the Armed Aerial Scout Request for Proposals.

The National Aeronautic Association recently selected the Sikorsky Aircraft's X2 Demonstrator Team as the recipient of the 2010 Collier Trophy. In addition to flying at nearly twice the speed of a conventional helicopter, the S-97 RAIDER prototype aircraft will incorporate other key performance parameters critical to combat operations ? increased maneuverability, greater endurance, reduced acoustic noise signature, and the ability to operate at high altitudes. 

Aurora Flight Sciences designs and builds advanced aerospace vehicles and related technology components for commercial and military applications. Aurora is headquartered in Manassas, VA; operates production plants in Bridgeport, WV and Columbus, MS; and a Research and Development Center in Cambridge, MA.

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