Sikorsky Aircraft has released photos of its new Raider X helicopter fuselage sitting in a hanger complete with a 20 mm chin-mounted main gun and Hellfire missiles on a retractable modular effects launcher (MEL). The MEL pods could be loaded with other munitions—including air launched drones—and are capable of retracting to reduce drag during flight. Dan Parsons of The War Zone writes (abridged):
Sikorsky has released new shots of its Raider X prototype aircraft sporting modular weapon launchers loaded with Hellfire missiles and a 20mm main gun.
This prototype Sikorsky’s pitch for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, as seen at the company’s flight test facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. According to Jay Macklin, business development director for Sikorsky Army Programs and Innovations, the aircraft is about 90 percent complete, and Sikorsky says it has 98 percent of the necessary parts on hand to complete the Raider. […]
Up against Raider X in the FARA competition is Bell’s 360 Invictus, a conventional single-main-rotor helicopter with a canted tail rotor. Invictus, built in Amarillo, Texas, has been keeping pace with Raider X. The prototypes are supposed to fly off against each other in a set of Army-hosted trials beginning in fall 2023. Whichever aircraft wins, it will be powered by the General Electric T901 Improved Turbine Engine. However, the teams are unlikely to receive any of those engines for another year, time which Macklin said would be used to continue refining the Raider X design.
FARA is conceived as filling the armed scout role vacated by the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. That mission is currently being performed by RQ-7 Shadow, and MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones teamed with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. FARA could replace a significant number of AH-64s currently in the Army’s inventory.
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