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New Military Helicopter Can Cruise At 253 MPH


Sikorsky's S-97 Raider looks like the future. Not the distant future -- not the "Star Trek" future -- but a closer, more attainable future. Its design is based primarily on Sikorsky's X-2 project, and as the name implies, this isn't just the future of helicopters. This is the future of helicopters at war.

The Raider turns the standard helicopter's normal balancing tail rotor perpendicular, making it a much faster pusher propeller. Rotors are great for maneuverability, and they allow for a much smaller landing surface than the runways required by fixed-wing planes, but helicopters often suffer from slow speed. The Raider features two rotors on top, spinning in opposite directions to counter each other's torque, and the tail propeller provides forward momentum. With this set up, the X-2 set an unofficial helicopter speed record by flying 258 mph in 2010. The Raider is, by and large, the production version of the X-2, tweaked and armed for military customers.

The pusher propeller design also hearkens back to an even older design. In the late 1960s, Lockheed designed the AH-56 Cheyenne, a fast attack helicopter for the army with a pusher propeller. The Cheyenne was plagued by disagreement between the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force over the respective roles of aircraft within each branch, and the Cheyenne was canceled over rising costs and stability issues.

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