Helicopters

Defiant Executes US Army Air Assault Mission Profile, Demonstrates Unsurpassed Speed, Maneuverability and Agility in High-Speed, Low-Level Operations and Confined Area Landings

These flights validate Defiant’s relevancy to the Army’s mission, providing agility at the objective (also known as the “X”), and increased survivability, all while reducing pilot workload.

The Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant successfully completed Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) mission profile test flights, including confined area landings and low-level flight operations. These flights validate Defiant’s relevancy to the Army’s mission, providing agility at the objective (also known as the “X”), and increased survivability, all while reducing pilot workload.

“We fully demonstrated Defiant’s ability to execute the FLRAA mission profile by flying 236 knots in level flight, then reducing thrust on the propulsor to rapidly decelerate as we approached the confined, and unimproved, landing zone,” said Bill Fell, Defiant chief flight test pilot at Sikorsky and a retired US Army Master aviator, in a Lockheed Martin Sikorsky news release. “This type of level body deceleration allowed us to maintain situational awareness and view the landing zone throughout the approach and landing without the typical nose-up helicopter deceleration. This confined area was extremely tight, requiring us to delay descent until nearly over the landing spot, followed by a near-vertical drop. We landed Defiant precisely on the objective with little effort as we descended into this narrow hole while maintaining clearance on all sides.”

SB>1 Defiant is the technology demonstrator proving out transformational capabilities for the Defiant X weapon system, the Sikorsky-Boeing team offering for the US Army’s FLRAA competition as part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. Defiant X will enable crews to fly low and fast through complex terrain, where Army aviators spend most of their time. It will extend capabilities of Army Aviation on the modern battlefield – and is designed to fit in the same footprint as a Black Hawk. With Defiant X, the US Army will deliver troops and cargo in future combat at twice the range of the current fleet.

“It’s what we call building combat power rapidly, and aircraft like the Defiant X can do that,” said Tony Crutchfield, retired US Army Lieutenant General and now vice president of Army Systems at Boeing. “In the Pacific, it’s even more important because your lines of operation are going to be dispersed over a wide area; you’re going to have these small bases and supply lines that’ll be positioned either on ships or on islands. You’re going to want to move more assets, maneuver in confined terrain and survive to build that combat power faster than your adversary can – so you can win.”

Defiant X incorporates Sikorsky X2 Technology to operate at high speeds while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. This critical capability provides pilots with increased maneuverability and survivability in high-threat environments, allowing them to penetrate enemy defenses while reducing exposure to enemy fire. Defiant X’s X2 coaxial rotor system and pusher prop allows for a high degree of maneuverability in and around the objective which is also directly linked to survivability.

Air assault is the movement of ground-based military forces by vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft—such as the helicopter—to seize and hold key terrain which has not been fully secured, and to directly engage enemy forces behind enemy lines. In addition to regular infantry training, air-assault units usually receive training in rappelling, fast-rope techniques and air transportation, and their equipment is sometimes designed or field-modified to allow better transportation within aircraft.

The US Army field manual FM 1-02 (FM 101-5-1) describes an “air assault operation” as an operation in which assault forces (combat, combat support, and combat service support), using the firepower, mobility, and total integration of helicopter assets, maneuver on the battlefield under the control of the ground or air maneuver commander to engage and destroy enemy forces or to seize and hold key terrain usually behind enemy lines.

Due to the transport load restrictions of helicopters, air assault forces are usually light infantry, though some armored fighting vehicles, like the Russian BMD-1 are designed to fit most heavy lift helicopters, which enable assaulting forces to combine air mobility with a certain degree of ground mechanization. Invariably the assaulting troops are highly dependent on aerial fire support provided by the armed helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft escorting them.

The following video features Defiant’s latest flight testing.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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