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The video below does NOT show the prototype Sikorsky S-97 RAIDER helicopter unleashing its ballistic fury. Just so you know, this coaxial rotor helicopter — initially set to replace the U.S. Special Operations Command’s MH-6M Little Bird, then aimed at supplanting the Army’s Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior — will fire . . .

Five-hundred rounds of 50 cal and seven rockets. The Next Big Thing? We report, the politicians decide.

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  1. Less than a minute of ammo, pilot better be damn good shot…

    Looks a lot like Airwolf don’tcha think?

    • It’s primarily a troop carrier even if a small one. The compromises favored speed and troop space.

      • I realize that it was conceived as a fast scout/ground attack machine but the addition of those six special ops seats made me suspect that it had been compromised in favor of that mission. Operators are pretty heavy and bulky:-) Kinda of like putting dive gear on the JU-88 – screwing up its initial concept. I am clearly just speculating though.

  2. I guess as a scout (Kiowa) or as a SOF (Little Bird), 500 rounds of 50 cal and seven rockets is ok. I ASSume the rockets will be Hellfire.
    If they have designs on this replacing the AH-64 (series) or even the Blackhawk DAP, it’ll need more ordnance.

    • Hard to tell after a few minutes searching, can’t find any specific load info. My guess would be the seven rockets refers to 2.75″ in a pod, but with the APKWS guidance section that won’t be so bad. Probably have a hardpoint with a twin hellfire rack or something on a detachable wing, mission dependent. Army-technology .com has a rendering with what looks like a 2.75″ pod on the left side.

      • Hellfires would be missiles, not rockets. Rockets would likely be 2.75 inch unguided… Yeah, doesn’t seem like much of a load. Defensive use only, suppressing just long enough to get away.

        • Check out the APKWS, there’s a few other models from various companies, but the short version is that they put a guidance unit in between the warhead and the motor. Turns the formerly unguided ffar rocket into a guided missile, but still fits into the 2.75″ pods.

        • If this is the replacement for the Kiowa, it’s a scout/light transport without much need for armament. You’ve got it Ben, just a dusting to effect momentary suppression for either inserting troops into a hot LZ, or to allow pinned troops to maneuver, or to convince someone to hold back over-running an extraction point until the birds can lift the troops out.

          It’s not much firepower, until the wagon wheel turns over you, then it’s an impediment to enemy maneuver as long as one with ammo is still over head. That, and fixed resistance points tend to soften with application of a flight of 2.75s. I can see these ripping technicals to bits or digging out a sniper or machine gun nest, even keeping RPG gunners from successfully engaging armor…and let’s not forget, the 2.75 rocket makes a nice target indicator for fast movers with bomb loads.

          Someone above said you could probably give this frame standoff and anti armor by adding hellfire or other weapons to a wing or hardpoint, which it most likely has, since it will also likely need to be able to mount external fuel tanks.

          From a purely firepower perspective, this is comparable to what it replaces.

    • 7 x FFARs (rockets) and 500 .50 cal. or 2 x Hellfires was plenty for us over in the sandboxes. As stated elsewhere, the Scout is primarily the eyes on the battlefield. Direct fire engagements were often necessary, but not the primary role.

      One advantage we had in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior was; we flew with the cockpit doors off and often engaged the enemy at very close ranges with our M-4s. We were quite good at this. The S-97 doesn’t look like this will be an option and can limit the opportunities where this was the only means of engagement.

      Otherwise, look s like a great airframe with much potential.

      • From the pics, I don’t see why you think the doors cannot be removed, and the text said it could carry six troops, seems like it would work well. 7 FFAR sounds a lot like the pods I carried on an O-2 in Vietnam, I’m not sure why this bird could not carry the 19-tube pod instead, the O-2 was always over max gross weight so more did not compute. I don’t see much in the way of locations to mount additional ordnance, but using it as a forward air controller aircraft certainly seems feasible.

        • Maybe the doors can be removed. Based on the forward fuselage shape and angles, I suspect that cockpit door removal will significantly reduce VNE (airspeed). That, more than any other reason is why I expect that they will not be flying with doors off. We will have to wait and see.

          If this follows the procurement path of the RAH-66 Comanche, we may never know.

  3. The terrorists will be confused when they shoot the tail with an RPG and it doesn’t do a Blackhawk Down maneuver. Looks cool but I still like my wings fixed…

    • Pretty close to fixed wing performance, coaxial counter-rotating rotors, pusher fan in the back. No asymmetric lift and gets around the air speed limitations of a single rotor normal eggbeater. Over 200 knots? Sweet!

        • Exactly. Same principle, twin rotors spinning in opposite directions, so each rotor has one blade moving forward into the air flow at all times to create lift. Must be hella torque on the airframe though….

          • They’re both driven by the same transmission, so practically zero torque on the airframe, unless it’s in the process of yawing. Even then, it’d be very little torque. Hence the lack of an ANTItorque (tail) rotor…

            • Hmmm, no what I was referring to was the unbalanced lift with a rotor, when moving forward one blade is moving forward into the air flow, the other is moving backwards away from the airstream. This is the limiting factor for speed, at some point your airspeed is fast enough you run out of lift on one side. With counter rotating rotors you can beat this to a degree, but each one has most of it’s lift on opposite sides from each other, creating a twisting effect, that’s what I meant by torque.

      • Sikorsky’s technology demonstrator version of this, the S-2 set a helicopter speed record of 250 mph. Sikorsky people seem confident the S-97 will be faster than 200 mph. The helicopter as a military vehicle is a lot more interesting than what it’s shooting with.

    • It’d still take it down, more than likely, if the gearbox lets loose. Center of gravity shift after loss of that much weight that far aft is usually unrecoverable.

      • Good point, I’ve only flown a helocopter once so I have very basic knowledge of them. I wonder if they would have enough cyclic authority to counteract that forward shift of the CG. I just figure that it wouldn’t be the out of control spinning to the ground that we see in movies all the time. My palms are sweating just thinking through it. It’d be a bad day regardless.

        • My guess is that they’d have proper longitudinal authority to control the aircraft while it’s intact… When pieces start coming off that aren’t supposed to depart, all bets are off. Might be interesting to see what the CG envelope looks like, though. I doubt it could handle the failure, though. Too many variables… Never know these days, though.

        • If its fly by wire, the FC computer can artificially compensate for loss of control surfaces or imballances using alternate control surfaces. The analog counter rotating problems were solved back in the 50’s when all the cool kids were developing twin rotor helicopters. Hell, my kid has a $15 remote control helicopter, with counter rotating blades, that is extremely stable in flight, and its been beat to crap.

          • Small (tiny) helicopters are a whole lot easier to overbuild, overpower, and get to fly by strange controls (no collective/cyclic, pitch control by a horizontal tail rotor, etc.). And fly by wire doesn’t, in any way, defeat laws of physics, which is how helicopters fly. If the center of gravity is too far out of limits, it crashes, fly by wire or not.

        • Fair enough. But, how is that different then any other helicopter? If you chop the wings off a Boeing 777, physics will beat the fly by wire system too. Im mearly stating that a fly by wire FC system can expand the envelope of “controlability” (and by extension survivability) on a coaxial rotor helicopter that is already a pretty darn stable system (hense the kid toy reference). I respect that more complicated systems with more moving parts presents more opportunities for things to go wrong and there is an absolute threshold for unrecoverable catastrophic failure.

          I remember reading a statement from an NTSB investigator: there are three types of crashes: the kind where everybody survives, the kind where nobody survives, and tge kind where some live and some die. You can never be rid of absolutely fatal crashes. The goal is to shift the paradigm toward preventable and survivable.

        • I think the toy helicopters get a lot of stability just by hanging most of their weight proportionally farther below the rotors than a real one can. There is a big difference in the kind of control you need with a real rotor, that has cyclic and collective pitch- the computer on a toy helicopter simply doesn’t have a complicated job to do.

          A real rotor, if the controls are hard over to one direction, should have far more pitch or roll authority than the pendulum effect of the airframe hanging below the rotor head can stop.

          Where fly by wire shines is in aircraft that are designed to be unstable. A human can’t make control corrections fast enough to keep an F16 in the air, even though the CG is in the right place. The other advantage is that you will never crash because all the hydraulic fluid leaked out.

          • And those toy helicopters, effectively, are hovering all the time. They really don’t have helicopter flight controls, just basic hover, and a little tail rotor to disrupt that stability and make it move. As far as forward flight goes, they rarely get above effective translational lift, and if they do, it’s just for a few seconds.

        • My experience is almost all fixed wing, but I am not certain helicopters have the same CG considerations, it would be interesting to hear from someone who knows. Seems obvious that they have much more tolerance for CG, otherwise they would be impossible to hover or land unless the CG was severely controlled before either was attempted. And, with fancy computer controls, the F-16, for example, is designed to fly with aft CG, and it’s been around for a long time. Before the F-16. any amount of aft CG meant you were going to crash.

        • Thanks all around… I don’t know crap outside what I read, so reading your insights is very informative. The only other thing I have to add though is that the engine/gear box/power plant(?) runs the full height of the helicopter top to bottom. It seems like most (not all) helicopters have all that stuff over the top of the compartment to keep the CG under the rotor, but also making it top heavy. This thing looks like it has a much lower CG than traditional helicopter setups. But I wonder how they ballance everything out if they are going to have 8 fully loaded guys forward of the mast rather than directly under it. Even on a little bird you have the power plant behind the mast and the crew forward to somewhat ballance things out. How does the system manage what seems like an imbalance?

        • California Richard,

          Its obviously bound by the same laws of physics as any other helicopter, but this bird is SIGNIFICANTLY different from any other helicopter.

          Most helicopters cn only fly a certain speed because above that speed the retreating rotor stalls and the heli rolls onto that side and crashes. With a coaxial arrangement there is an advancing rotor on each side.

          There is also a pusher prop, so the helicopter doesn’t need to tilt forward to fly forward. This reduces rotor drag and allows more power to be put into forward motion.

          I wouldn’t doubt if this thing is 100 kts faster than the helicopters it replaces.

          This is based on a development helicopter that Sikorski developed a few years ago called teh X2 that set the speed record for helicopters in level flight.


          • Actually, when a conventional helicopter gets into retreating blade stall, it rolls to the retreating side, and pitches up, slowing down, and correcting the problem. They don’t just crash when they get to retreating blade stall. Kind of a self-correcting problem, you might say.

            One big advantage of this model, I believe, is that it’s probably got rigid rotors where the blades don’t flap vertically through hinges, but still bend. This, along with the coax rotors, plus the pusher prop actually would allow the retreating blade of each rotor to completely stall, while not being allowed to flap to the extent to contact the other rotor.

  4. 500? That’s it? I mean, I guess .50 is quite heavy. We never left the wire without at least 2000 in the truck in Iraq.

    • It is a scout. It does not do movement to contact or have to fire to break an engagement.
      The only load anyone should be concerned is its electro-optical / IR sensors and the quality of its target feeds as well as the range of its comms. If it Fires its gun it is like a Artillery forward observer firing his rifle – not the weapon of choice.

  5. When I grow up I want to be a helicopter.

    Helicopters don’t fly, they beat the air into submission.

  6. Anyone else thinking we should have just bought the Commanche? 20mm instead of the .50cal, and 6x internal hellfire capacity, plus 8 more if the wings were fitted. Low observable, too.

    • If low observable means how quiet the commanche is, I’m guessing you’ve heard it in flight, pretty incredible but very expensive.

      • Never had the chance, was before my time. I meant that it was stealthy, had a fraction of the Apache radar signature, and I think the exhaust was shaped to diffuse the infrared. Shrouded tail rotor helped with the noise, less interference with the main rotor.

  7. Wow, the Cheyenne sure has taken a long time! Let’s see if the Air Force can kill it once and for all.

  8. The Sikorsky S-97 Raider helicopter carries only five-hundred rounds of 50 cal and seven rockets? Is that all of them or just the mag-limited California-legal model?

  9. The Raider will become the new Scout rotary wing aircraft. It will be used just like the OH58 is now. It’s mission is to fire as only a last resort or when an immediate high profile target appears. The original mission of the OH6 Little Bird was as a hunter-killer team and used with a Cobra. The current role of the AH6 is as a special mission aircraft and it is only assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation (SOAR) out of Ft Campbell.

    A true scout needs to be more agile than heavily armed. The seven rockets will by the standard 70 mm (2.75″) FFAR which can be armed with a multiple types of warheads

      • I don’t know, if they had stuck with the Cheyenne, it could have been a world beater. 247mph in 1972, 30mm cannon plus 40mm grenade launcher, with 6x hardpoints and capable of firing TOW missiles.

  10. Never had this problem before this week: If I stay at TTAG until the “sign up for our newsletter” pops up, there is no way out except to sign up, no X, no “no thanks.” If it’s intentional, fine. If it’s not, well….

    • Top right hand corner, outside the pop up box, there’s a faint “X”.

      When you see it, you’ll say “I’d hit that”.

    • Sorry, I meant GAU-19, not GAU-21. The GAU-21 is the M3M, which same as the M3P but with spade grips and flexible mount. The M3P is designed for gunpods and coaxial mounts. They’re both electrically-boosted M2 Brownings.

  11. >>and seven rockets

    You do realize that no Egg in the world is capable of firing either guns or rockets without external pods, which, obviously, is an option for 97, too?

  12. Meh. How about you a-holesi in congress save us some money and just buy a bunch of Hinds. The Ruskis got us beat in spares in terms of helicopter technology.

  13. 50 cal is good for suppressing Tacoma technicals, but it’s rather small for anything armored or protected. Especially with only 500 rounds. Much higher capacity with 30cal or similar light rounds, or a light cannon like 20mm with useful explosive payload at lower capacity seems better.

  14. From what I understand about coaxial rotor systems, if the engine quits you can’t
    autorotate down your basically SOL.

      • Completely unfounded… absolutely no reason a coax helicopter wouldn’t be able to autorotate.

        • I stand by my first post, unless you have a bunch of forward speed and altitude you cannot make an autorotation landing without bending that bird up big time.
          Coaxial rotor systems are not set up for engine out situations at low altitudes and low speeds.

          • Nor are any others. In ANY helicopter, if you’re at 1000 feet above the ground, and you have a complete power failure, the procedure is to GAIN AIRSPEED. Period. At low altitude, low airspeed, they may have some yaw issues, I guess. They’ll still auto…

    • I’m not sure who in their right mind would fly a contraption that couldn’t autorotate when the engine(s) quit(s)… yeah, they’d autorotate just fine… it’s kind of a requirement for helicopter design.

  15. The Eurocopter X-3 is much faster. It has cruised for 40 minutes at 255 knots and hit 263 knots in a dive. No word if it will be made in a military configuration, though.

  16. Yeah but they actually used the phrase “GAME-CHANGING” which killed it for me there.

    • The Russians beat us to the punch on a lot of things, that we then perfected and perfected the manufacturing process for and came from behind for the big win.

      Rifles, armored vehicles, tanks, night vision, even space rockets, the Russians go first, and then we perfect the tech so that it actually works right, and follow that up by out specing and out manufacturing them.

      The Russians often get to go first, but they are like Apple, innovative ideas and first to market, but you know you wait a few months until the Android version comes out it will be better, actually work right, and be compatible with everything, it won’t be in short supply, plus cheaper, and you won’t look like a douchey hipster…oh wait, that last bit might not really apply to late model Russian military hardware.

      Really, over and over Ivan has beaten the west to the tech, then proved over and over that a communist style top down economy can’t manufacture tech goods worth a darn, in any quantity, with anything like QC adequate to the product. You try building latest generation fighting vehicles in a place where no one cares about QC or productivity.

      It’s like having a latest gen stealth fighter…with electronics outsourced to cottage industry in the third world for production: The prototype sends chills through the Pentagon and has the Ruskies thinking now is the time to kick off WWIII…then the production models turn out to be at least as dangerous to thier own crews as to the enemy, and half the models don’t even have the good stuff installed. Then you can’t get spare parts, and there are only six guys in the world who can service the thing, and none of them are actually in the red army.

      Now that I really think about it, the Russians do more experimental R&D for the Pentagon than DARPA.

      I’m also feeling a essay comparing Apples secretive and controlling methods to central planning under communist systems, and how each manages to out innovate their competition, only to be beaten in the market place by more open, messy systems that bring the tech to maturity and then produce it in a better, cheaper format that subsumes any advantage of being first with greater utility, better cost and more availability and compatibility.

      The Russians long ago should have taken over the world, but from the Tsarist/serfdom stagnation, to the communist revolution and manufacturing/production crises, to the current corruption and lack of controls, they shoot themselves in the foot, from the top down so to speak, over and over.

      Point in fact: You can give the Russians the plans for top secret technology, blue prints and all…and they still can’t build it beyond the prototype scale and have it actually work, look at the history of Soviet nuclear submarine development: We perfect it, they steal it, our boats are still out there, state of the art and fulfilling their mission, while the pride of the Soviet fleet sits at the bottom of the sea with all hands still aboard, and sister ships sit at harbor, stripped and in mothballs.

      The upshot is that for the Russians to ever beat us, they would first have to join us…for them to play at our level they would need a stable and permissive central government and a working free market economy, and if they ever develop those things, we have won!

      • We’re just not going bankrupt AS FAST as the Russians… or won’t admit it, anyway.

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