It will be very exciting to see this new (by mainstream standards anyway) form of pusher prop/twin rotor configuration hit the skies in just a couple of years. With massive increases in speed and range, and featuring a safer “tail-rotorless” design, makes it appear apparent that this design philosphy, leveraged from Sikorsky’s X-2 technology demonstrator, is indeed the future configuration for high-tech helicopters. The first actual test article, not a technology demonstrator, will come in the form of the S-97 Raider designed to hopefully finally dispatch the US Army’s famed OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters from the US’s inventory. But there is no doubt that Sikorsky is looking at adapting this technology to many different helicopter classes and missions, especially those of the medium twin engine helicopter segment that is currently being fielded by the standard barer in the class, the H-60/S-70 Blackhawk. In the medium range format, X-2 technology will be able to cut medical evacuation times in half, offer double the element of surprise via raw speed and would generally be a significant improvement on the H-60 design that has lead the market for some many decades.
Not if, but when this layout is incorporated into the civilian helicopter marketplace it will provide for near light fixed wing turboprop performance but with the ability to land almost anywhere. The day may be right around the bend when shopping for a single engine turboprop like the PC-12 may also include a trip to your local Sikorsky dealer to take a look at the “hybird” option as well!
One question that is left unanswered is where does this leave “tilt rotor” technology such as that featured in the V-22 Osprey and AB609? Many have seen the tilt rotor configuration as overly complex for its mission goals, and this has been somewhat proven by a 25+ year development timeline, and high costs and low availability rates across the current inventory. Is tilt rotor technology indeed already outdated, less than a decade after it began operations?
*All concepts via Sikorsky