The greatest military in the world could get even more lethal if the Army decides to acquire a fleet of next-generation helicopters that are faster, more fuel-efficient and have a wider combat range than its current crop of aircraft.
At least two vendors are competing for the lucrative government contract, according to The National Interest.
A frontrunner is the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant helicopter, which in June hit a record speed of 205 knots, or about 235 miles per hour. It has since reached 250 miles per hour, or 217 knots, according to the Army, and will ramp up to 250 knots, or 288 mph.
Boeing Co. and Sikorsky, part of the Lockheed Martin Corp., built the Defiant pursuant to a 2014 Army contract the team was awarded.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said sleeker, faster combat helicopters will help the United States maintain its military edge over its foreign rivals.
“This is a very crucial moment for the Army for bringing in these new platforms into the formation so that we can maintain that technological edge for years to come,” McCarthy said, according to Military.com.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the Army will continue to test-fly the Defiant prototype before any decision is reached.
“We are flying before buying,” McConville said, according to an Army report on the aircraft’s flight demo Nov. 9.
However, he said he was already impressed that the Defiant flies at twice the speed and has three times the combat radius of the Army’s current fleet of Black Hawk combat helicopters.
McConville added that he was thrilled by the advancements that have been made in military technology.
“I’m excited to see what everyone is doing to transform Army aviation,” the general said following the flight demo.
He said these advancements “will prove critical for Army operations in a theater like the Indo-Pacific, where the dominant geographical feature is water and yet land forces remain the predominant military force in the majority of nations in the region.”
Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s director of future vertical lift business development, said the speed record the Defiant achieved was noteworthy because it blew past previous milestones.
“Exceeding 200 knots is significant also because it’s beyond any conventional helicopter speed, and we understand that speed and low-level maneuverability is critical to the holistic survivability in a future FVL [future vertical lift] environment,” Macklin told Defense News in June.
For now, the Defiant will undergo extensive and rigorous testing.
“Cost matters, performance matters and schedule matters,” McConville said. “And ultimately, winning matters.”
While having the most cutting-edge military technology is important for maintaining American exceptionalism, let’s hope the Defiant won’t be needed and we can instead bring our troops home.
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