Ann R. Thryft

February 17, 2012

1 Min Read
Composites Employed in Military Helicopters

Two prototype helicopters that will be evaluated by the US Army deploy carbon-fiber-reinforced composite materials in both the aircraft structure and the blades. The light tactical S-97 RAIDER helicopters are the successors to Sikorsky Aircraft's award-winning X2 Technology demonstrator aircraft, which achieved twice the average cruise speed of a conventional helicopter at more than 250 knots in a 2010 demonstration.

UK-based Hexcel Composites' HexWeb honeycomb core composite and HexPly prepreg composite technologies will give the aircraft's structure and blades light weight and extreme strength.


Hexcel is one of 35 companies that are members of the team self-funding the design and build of the demonstrator helicopters. Sikorsky announced its supplier team recently during the Association of the US Army's ILW Aviation Symposium and Exposition in National Harbor, Md. Other team members include BAE Systems, Garmin, General Electric, Goodrich, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.

The S-97 RAIDER program will demonstrate the potential military applications of Sikorsky's breakthrough X2 rotorcraft design, which was also used in the X2 Technology demonstrator aircraft. To provide significant improvements in maneuverability, hover efficiency, high/hot climate performance, and speed, X2 rotorcraft design features coaxial counter-rotating main rotors, and a pusher propeller, which yields cruise speeds of up to 220 knots (253mph), with dash speeds of up to 240 knots (276mph) or higher. In 2010, the National Aeronautic Association awarded Sikorsky the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the helicopter's speed achievement, and for its potential as a future rotorcraft technology.

About the Author(s)

Ann R. Thryft

Ann R. Thryft has written about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for Design News, EE Times, Test & Measurement World, EDN, RTC Magazine, COTS Journal, Nikkei Electronics Asia, Computer Design, and Electronic Buyers' News (EBN). She's introduced readers to several emerging trends: industrial cybersecurity for operational technology, industrial-strength metals 3D printing, RFID, software-defined radio, early mobile phone architectures, open network server and switch/router architectures, and set-top box system design. At EBN Ann won two independently judged Editorial Excellence awards for Best Technology Feature. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and a Certified Business Communicator certificate from the Business Marketing Association (formerly B/PAA).

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