The "SB-1" (or "SB-1") is a joint venture "compound helicopter" development between long-time helicopter-maker Sikorsky and defense powerhouse Boeing. The design is being fleshed out to satisfy the United States Army's "Future Vertical Lift" (FVL) program which has since taken over the "Joint Multi-Role" (JMR) requirement. The SB-1 technology demonstrator is in direct competition with the in-development V-280 "Valor" being offered by Bell Helicopters for the same high-speed, transport-minded Army requirement. To date (January 2019), the V-280 has been able to reach speeds near 320 mph and has been in active flight-testing for nearly a year.
The SB-1 is part of a next-generation of U.S. Army helicopters that encompasses a family of rotary-wing aircraft to undertake a variety of over-battlefield roles. These designs are intended to succeed the UH-60 Black Hawk,AH-64 Apache, OH-5 Kiowa, and CH-47 Chinook models in U.S. Army service. Commonality of parts between the new designs is also a strong suit of the family, lowering long-term maintenance and repair costs. In the end, it is hoped for a new, more mobile helicopter force to better aid elements on the ground. Sikorsky and Boeing have not teamed up on a military aircraft project since the cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche stealth light-attack helicopter of the late-1990s / early-2000s.
At the heart of the SB-1, and other compound helicopters for that matter, is speed in a world where forward flight for helicopters is typically maxed under 200 miles-per-hour. The compound approach of the SB-1 promises twice that and doubles range in the process - this not only makes a speedier and rangier platform, it also augments general maneuverability and agility - useful for when the aircraft finds itself under fire or attempts to navigate the confined spaces of a mountainous or urban environment. One of the more notable American attempts at a frontline compound helicopter was the Lockheed AH-56 "Cheyenne" attack platform of the 1960s-1970s which was eventually cancelled after 10 units were completed. That helicopter is detailed elsewhere on this site.
The coaxial main rotor arrangement, already popular with many Russian Kamov-branded types (as in the Ka-50/Ka-52 "Black Shark" series, is used to provide the necessary lift properties while also aiding in general stability along the lateral axis. The tail propeller unit applies the required forward thrust - giving the aircraft a much improved operating speed for a helicopter. The use of a traditional main rotor blade coupled with a "pusher prop" gives such aircraft the name of "compound helicopter".
The prototype SB-1 was unveiled in December of 2018 at the Sikorsky West Palm Beach facility and ground-testing is set to follow during in 2019. A first-flight, which had been planned before the end of 2018, is also targeted for sometime in 2019 as there have been delays in bringing the SB-1 design to fruition. The product's design is influenced some from Sikorsky's previous work in the compound helicopter field - namely the "S-69" of the 1970s and the more modern "X2" (both detailed elsewhere on this site).
While the in-development Sikorsky S-97 "Raider" compound helicopter (detailed elsewhere on this site) shares an appearance and overall capabilities equal to the SB-1 Defiant, the S-97 is being developed by a separate design team at Sikorsky for a U.S. Army high-speed scout and light-attack platform requirement. The Defiant is intended to fulfill a multi, non-direct combat role closer to that of the UH-1 "Huey" or UH-60 Black Hawk series of medium-lift transports.
As with the S-97 Raider project, the SB-1 carries a fuselage similar in appearance to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopter. This seats the two pilots at the front (behind a shallow nose cap) side-by-side in the cockpit. Aft of this position is the passenger/cargo cabin with sliding doors to either side of the fuselage. Above this compartment is the engine fitting encompassing 2 x Honeywell T55 turboshaft engines. Atop this installation is the double (coaxial) rigid main rotor arrangement made up of two independently rotating, four-bladed components with cranked tips. The fuselage then runs aft to house the pusher propeller unit. Under the tail is a ventral housing for the tail landing gear unit. The mass of the aircraft is supported through forward-set, single-wheeled landing gear near midships. The tail section also holds outboard vertical fins along wing stubs.
December 2018 - Sikorsky-Boeing have unveiled the new SB-1 Defiant compound helicopter. Ground-testing will follow in 2019.
January 2019 - A first-flight of the SB-1 is targeted for some time in 2019.
March 2019 - The SB-1 completed its first-flight on March 21st, 2019 at the Sikorsky West Palm Beach, Florida facility. The flight lasted around 30 minutes and encompassed basic flight maneuvers at low speed.
January 2020 - The SB-1 has exceeded 100 knots as it continues its flight-testing phase.
March 2020 - The U.S. Army has awarded the Sikorsky-Boeing team a Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction contract to cover the subsequent stage of the Future Long Range Air Assault (FLRAA) program based on the pairing's SB-1 "Defiant" offering. The aircraft will directly compete against Bell's V-280 "Valor".
June 2020 - The SB-1 Defiant has been successfully tested at speeds of 205 knots.
July 2020 - The S-97 has flown, for the first time, alongside (in formation) the SB-1 Defiant at Sikorsky's West Palm Beach facility for U.S. Army authorities.
October 2020 - The SB-1 defiant prototype has exceeded 232 knots in testing during a descent action. Additionally, it exceeded 211 knots in straight-line flight on October 12th, 2020.
January 2021 - The refined "Defiant X" form, based in the SB-1 demonstrator, was officially presented by Sikorsky-Boeing for the U.S. Army's Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program.
July 2021 - The SB-1 prototype has successfully lifted a load of 5,300 lb as flight testing continues.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
CO-AXIAL MAIN ROTORS
Dual main rotors arranged in co-axial mounting, negating traditional torque-neutralizing tail rotor unit.
36.1 ft (11.00 m)
8,940 lb (4,055 kg)
11,023 lb (5,000 kg)
+2,083 lb (+945 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 production variant)
2 x Honeywell T55 turboshaft engines driving 2 x Four-bladed main rotors in a coaxial arrangement over the fuselage and 1 Six -bladed tail rotor arranged in a "pusher" configuration.
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