With the Sikorsky X2 prototype achieving first flight yesterday, it's a good time to discuss its military potential.
The X2 is
designed with a coaxial main rotor and an aft pusher propeller in order to break
the conventional helicopter's roughly 170-knot
/hour speed barrier.
And its fly-by-wire controls and modern avionics are supposed to defeat the high vibration and high workload levels that doomed Sikorsky's last attempt in the 1970s with the XH-59A advancing blade concept.
Sikorsky business development director Jim Kagdis, a veteran of the RAH-66 Comanche, spoke with me yesterday about the military vision for the X2.
Kagdis identified three potential missions:
- Peer escort for the BellBoeing MV-22, replacing the slower AH-1W/Z Cobra. (Interestingly, Lt Gen David Trautman, US Marine Corps chief of aviation, told me last month that the MV-22 no longer required a high-speed escort.)
- Carrier-based antisubmarine warfare helicopter, replacing Sikorsky's SH-60. As Kagdis says, when an enemy sub is on the loose near the battle group, "speed really helps you get their faster".
- Combat support for special forces in urban environments
I was a little surprised Kagdis limited his vision to fairly niche roles for the X2. Wouldn't Sikorsky want to offer the X2 for the emerging 'Joint Multi-Role' (JMR) requirement to develop a single aircraft after 2020 worthy of replacing the Boeing AH-64 Apache and the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk? As you can imagine, this is the Holy Grail for the world's helicopter industry after the next decade.
replied that it was all about the requirement. "If the customer's demands are
as interested in a requirement that includes significant or greater speeds than
we have today with the same hover performance as a conventional helicopter,
this [the X2] becomes a competitor," Kagdis said.