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One of the two candidates to replace the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter has started ground tests. The SB>1 Defiant uses unique rotor layout than conventional helicopters, giving it the speed to deliver troops and equipment more quickly on the battlefield.
Designed and built by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the SB>1 features substantial differences over conventional helicopters. Regular helicopters use their main rotors for lift while the tail rotor stabilizes the helicopter and prevents it from whirling like a top. The SB-1 however generates lift and stability through the use of not one but two main rotor sets rotating in opposite directions. The push propeller, also known as a “pusher propulsor” generates forward thrust, making the aircraft even faster.
Sikorsky pioneered the combination of counter-rotating blades and a propulsor with the X-2 technology demonstrator, and then the S-97 Raider scout helicopter. The SB>1 is the largest of the three. The aircraft is designed to carry a crew of four, twelve passengers, and hit a top speed of 250 knots (287 miles an hour on the ground). The SB>1 will also feature retractable landing gear, something the UH-60M does not have.
The Defiant is Sikorsky’s entry in the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift-Medium program designed to ultimately replace the UH-60M Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters in U.S. Army service. An armed attack helicopter version of Defiant would probably be fitted with pylons for the Joint Air-Ground Missile, the new replacement for the aging Hellfire missile. It could also be fitted with a light caliber autocannon along the lines of the Apache’s 30-millimeter chain gun.
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Another contestant in the Future Vertical Lift-Medium program is the Bell V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor design similar to the V-22 Osprey. The winner of the program could go on to not only replace the U.S. Army helicopters but also helicopters in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.
The Defiant is currently undergoing ground tests at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. First flight is unknown but could very well happen this year.