Force Magazine

 Helicopters Next-Gen
 Eurocopter X3 and Sikorsky X2 show the way forward for rotary wing technology

By Atul Chandra

Sikorsky’s X-2
Sikorsky’s X-2

The X3 is Eurocopter's bet for the future and by all accounts it looks like a bright one. The X3 has already reached a top speed of 430 kmph (helicopters today can at best achieve around 280 kmph). The X3 has achieved 448 kmph in a dive during testing thus far. A high cruise speed of 370 kmph means that the X3 can perform roles simply not possible with a conventional helicopter. At present, the X3 is a technology demonstrator that will go on to deliver a family of helicopters in the five-14 tonne class. The performance it offers would be especially attractive to oil companies for offshore applications and military customers who are looking for speed and long range.

Once it goes into production, the H3 (X3 is the name for developmental version) is expected to offer a cruise speed of 408 kmph. Development is expected to take a decade with the first production variants entering the market before 2015. Eurocopter has used items from its existing helicopters for the X3, the fuselage is from the AS365N3 Dauphin, rotor system from the EC155, the main gearbox from EC 175 and engines are Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines, taken from the NH90. The cockpit panel was based on that from the EC 155 as was the four-axis autopilot. The X3 undertook and successfully completed a US tour where it performed flight and static demonstrations for the US military. Eurocopter is looking to fit the H3 variants (production version of X3) in the US military’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme starting 2030.

Sikorsky X2: Sikorsky's X2 technology uses counter-rotating coaxial main rotors and a pusher propeller, along with an advanced fly-by-wire system, to deliver cruise speeds of 425 kmph. According to Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems, with the X2, it can offer the US Army reduced risk, a 100-knot improvement in speed, a 60 per cent improvement in combat radius and 50 per cent better high-hot hover performance. Sikorsky and Boeing have submitted a joint proposal to build a demonstrator aircraft based on the X2 Technology Helicopter Design for the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role and FVL requirements. The first demonstrator aircraft is expected to fly in 2017.

The JMR TD programme supports the US Army’s FVL initiative to deliver the next generation of vertical lift utility and attack aircraft. Sikorsky will take the lead role during Phase 1 of the JMR TD proposal, and Boeing will take a lead role for Phase 2, for the mission systems demonstrator programme. Proposals for JMR TD Phase 1 were due to the US Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate by March 6 last month. The Army is expected to announce its selection of one or more winning bids in late 2013.

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