Friday, February 8, 2013

The future of helicopter technology at India's doorsteps

The Indian Navy may stand a good chance of boosting its helicopter fleets with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC) having received a request for information (RFIs) from it for buying and developing 123 multi-role helicopters. Sikorsky is also working on a futuristic helicopter, the technology demonstrator of which -- called X-2 -- has recorded 250 knots in airspeed as against 160-180 knots recorded among conventional helicopters. The company has indicated that India would stand in good stead doing business with it to gain the latest in helicopter technology enhancement in future.

Air Marshal (retd) AVM Walia, regional executive (India & South Asia region), SAC,said on Thursday at the second day of Aero India 2013 that the Indian Navy was looking for 123 multi-role helicopters. It is specially looking for one of two varieties of helicopters -- the MH-60R or the MH-60H. "The RFI has been responded to and we are now waiting for a request for proposal so that we can take the matter forward," he said.

SAC has also received RFIs from the Indian CoastGuard for 14 shore-based helicopters and 16 ship-borne ones for which the company is waiting for RFPs.

But while Walia and SAC president, Mick Maurer, provided details about doing business with Indian defence and civilian companies, what could not be missed was their presentation made on the X-2 technology helicopter,the future of helicopter which flies with double tilt rotors for enhanced lift.

Having achieved its goal of flying the X2 Technology demonstrator helicopter at more than 250 knots (287 mph), Sikorsky will design, build and fly two more X2 Technology aircraft, and offer one of the aircraft to the US military for flight test and evaluation. Both prototypes will become the first of an all-new light tactical helicopter category — the Sikorsky S-97 — and will carry the designation “S-97 Raider” helicopter.

SAC is developing two prototypes for the US military, which is scheduled to carry out the first test flight of the Sikorsky S-97 in late 2014.

The Sikorsky X-2 helicopter, which features increased speed with maneuverability and agility, incorporates several new technologies and has successfully demonstrated them in a flight environment. These technologies include an integrated fly-by-wire system that allows the engine/rotor/propulsor system to operate efficiently, with full control of rotor rpm (rotations per minute) throughout the flight high lift-to-drag rigid blades, low drag hub fairings, and active vibration control at such high speeds.

In addition, the aircraft was used as a 'flying wind tunnel' to determine the main rotor to propulsor aerodynamic interaction, shaft angle optimization for performance, and blade tip clearance for a range of maneuvers. This will allow optimization of the X2 Technology suite for future products.
SAC's website says about this future of helicopters: "Historically, vertical flight has required a compromise between hover performance and forward speed...With X2 Technology, Sikorsky is focused on providing increased speed over conventional rotorcraft designs without compromising the essential attributes that make helicopters valuable." 


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