Manassas-based Aurora Flight Sciences delivers a world class fuselage for a revolutionary new attack helicopter
Aurora Flight Sciences (AFS) has designed and developed a truly world class fuselage for the much anticipated Sikorsky S-97 Raider helicopter. This helicopter is designed to contend for the lead role in the US Army’s stable of attack and support helicopters. In 2011, Aurora Flight Sciences was recognized by Sikorsky Helicopters as a Gold supplier – referring to outstanding build quality, customer service, and timeliness of delivery. Sikorsky also recognized AFS as “supplier of the year” in 2011 – further reinforcing Aurora’s role as an elite design and manufacturing group attached to the S-97 project. The specifics of the S-97 fuselage are yet to be fully released, but the composite construction and leading-edge design are evident at first glance. The S-97 fuselage will form the foundation for a truly revolutionary new Army helicopter.
How will the fuselage, along with other components, differentiate the S-97 from other choppers?
The ubiquitous Army helicopter – the UH-60 Blackhawk, is an outstanding feat of engineering. That said, the Blackhawk has been in service for nearly 35 years, and is constrained by some of its key design characteristics. The Blackhawk is highly regarded as a powerful, lethal, and reliable design. There have even been movies made that place the Blackhawk as a central character of sorts. But engineering and design capabilities have moved quickly, and the Army is looking to ensure that their fleet of helicopters is as safe and effective as possible.
The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s current, primary attack helicopter. First pressed into service in 1984, the Apache is nearing 30 years old. While still a maneuverable and effective aircraft, the Apache is limited in terms of top speed and overall flight range. The Apache is considered as the most deadly helicopter in US military history, but the demands of the current military require just a little more in terms of speed, maneuverability, and lethality.
The S-97 RAIDER introduces several key design improvements that will no doubt revolutionize the US Army’s helicopter program. The first is the AFS-based composite airframe. This fuselage is designed to protect occupants through strategically placed armoring capabilities, is built to reduce overall radar signature through the use of intentional contouring of the body, and delivers enhanced maneuverability via better aerodynamics and propeller configuration. The fuselage is the literal backbone of the machine, yet other components combine to deliver class-leading performance.
The propeller design uses two counter-rotating stiff blades, for maximum lift. These combine with a rear-mounted, seven-foot diameter pusher propeller that provides impressive acceleration and deceleration abilities. Retractable landing gear and a smoothly contoured body permit the S-97 RAIDER’s X2 blade configuration to break the 250-knot speed barrier in trial testing. This eclipses the Blackhawk’s maximum speed of 193 knots and the Apache’s limit of 171 knots. The ability to fly higher, and for a longer time, will no doubt provide increased ability to stay actively engaged for a longer period of time – all while farther from surface-level threats.
The S-97 RAIDER will no doubt become an elite tactical helicopter for the US Army in the near future. With a fuselage designed and built by Aurora Flight Sciences as the central component to this awe-inspiring machine, the S-97 will become the standard for light attack helicopters – and will serve US soldiers and personnel ably for many years.