A lot has changed in the year since Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant Team’s gave its press update at AUSA in 2018.
The SB>1 Defiant is a joint project aiming at fulfilling the Army’s needs when it comes to Future Vertical Lift (FVL), specifically on Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA, pronounced Flora), which aims to replace the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawks. Sikorsky-Boeing and Bell Helicopters, which DSJ also spoke with at AUSA 2019, have emerged as the two main competitors for the contract.
“It has been a year of achievement,” said Randy Rotte, Director of Global Sales & Marketing for Boeing on Future Vertical Lift.
At AUSA 2018, the team was still dealing with manufacturing delays on component pieces, specifically the blades and creating it’s Propulsion System Test Bed (PSTB), which allows the company to test successful system integration of all the different moving pieces—turbines, transmission and rotors. A first flight was slated for the end of 2018.
Defiant has not hit those targets.
It achieved first flight on March 21, 2019, almost three months past the predicted timeline. And although Future Vertical Lift program manager for Boeing Ken Eland said at AUSA in 2018 that Defiant could expect to hit 200 knots within six months after initial flight, the Defiant team has not yet exceeded 10 knots.
At the end of March, the team suffered another delay with the PSTB, setting the team back another six to eight weeks, according to Eland.
In September, Defiant returned to flight and achieved 10 knots in all directions, now totaling four test flights and three hours of flight time.
Eland said the next flight would be in about two weeks, where the helicopter will test speeds of about 20 knots, before increasing to 40 knots and then jump in 40 knot increments until it hits speeds of about 250 knots. The goal is that Defiant will hit triple digit speeds by the end of this year, Eland said, before reaching near top speed in Quarter 1 of 2019.
“The Army asks us to develop the next generation aircraft, that’s exactly what we’re doing, and we’re following our process” said Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Director of Business Development on FVL. “We’re very excited about what next year’s going to bring. We’re looking forward to it.”