Watch the First Flight of the Defiant, a Potential Blackhawk Successor

Kyle Mizokami
Photo credit: Sikorsky Boeing

From Popular Mechanics

The SB-1 Defiant helicopter, a new rotary-winged aircraft design developed by Sikorsky-Boeing, flew for the first time on Friday, March 21, 2019.

The Defiant uses a unique propulsion system, ditching the tail rotor of conventional helicopters and adding a push propeller. The result is an aircraft the manufacturer touts as faster and better handling than other choppers, which could result in faster and more agile U.S. Army helicopter force.

The Defiant is an entrant in the U.S. Army's Joint Multi-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program, whose goal is to develop a new medium transport aircraft to replace the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The Blackhawk has been in continuous service since the early 1980s, and although it's had a successful tenure, the Army decided now is the time for something new. New aviation technologies developed since the UH-60’s introduction could allow for faster, longer-range aircraft with greater performance in high-altitude environments such as Afghanistan.

The SB-1 Defiant capitalizes on technology originally introduced on the X-2 technology demonstrator, and then the S-97 Raider scout helicopter. Instead of using a conventional helicopter layout with main rotors and a stabilizing tail rotor, the Defiant uses two sets of counter-rotating main rotors and a rear-facing propulsor propeller for forward thrust. The SB-1 would have a crew of four, carry 12 combat troops, and reach speeds of up to 250 knots, or 287 miles an hour. That’s more than a hundred mph faster than the latest version of the UH-60 Blackhawk, the UH-60M, can fly.

Photo credit: Sikorsky-Boeing

The video of the first flight, posted by Sikorsky Boeing, shows the aircraft flying close to the ground, effectively in a hover, while the rear propulsor is deactivated. The aircraft was tested at the company’s West Palm Beach test site in Florida.

The Joint Multi-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program should produce a viable Blackhawk replacement by the late 2020s, with first fielding of the aircraft in the early 2030s. An attack helicopter version to replace the AH-64 Apache is also envisioned.

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