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"Expect something from Sikorsky inside a couple of months", company manager for advanced programs Jim Kagdis said at the International Powered Lift Conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday. As the X2 program winds down - the demonstrator is designed for a limited life, and Sikorsky plans to place it with the Smithsonian after a couple more sorties - the company is pitching the idea of replacing the Army's Kiowa Warriors and Special Forces AH-6 and MH-6 Little Birds with an X2-technology aircraft. That is also the goal of the Army's Armed Aerial Scout program, currently in the analysis of alternatives stage with a report due next year. Sikorsky showed a full-scale mockup of its Light Tactical Helicopter (LTH) design at last year's Association of the US Army convention in Washington DC, but Kagdis would not be drawn on whether the company plans to announce a new initiative at the 2011 event later this month. Kagdis said that the company sees the LTH as having the most potential for an early transition of the X2 to production. He also stressed that the X2 concept is not just about speed: the program started with four key performance parameters (speed, low workload, low vibration and low noise) and that as the project progressed, the company recognized also that the high power required for speed woulkd translate into much improved hot-and-high performance. The X2 just completed some acoustic tests with the pusher propeller shut down and the speed of the main rotors reduced. Its remaining tasks include testing a "sail" fairing on the rotor mast - not to increase speed but to reduce drag at speed, critical to achieving long range with a coaxial design. Kagdis did not hand out copies of his IPLC presentation, but outlined an LTH with a normal takeoff weight of 8950 pounds and a max of 10500 pounds (about the size of a classic AH-1G Cobra), powered by a single 3,000 hp engine. Despite its size, the relatively small rotor diameter (33 feet) and lack of a tail rotor give it an "operating length" between that of the Kiowa Warrior and the Little Bird, while the high installed power allows it to hover at 14,000 feet - today's helicopters, Kagdis says, cannot hover over 40 per cent of Afghanistan, but the LTH can cover 97 per cent of the country. Small size would make it easier to operate in mountains or urban canyons, the ability to pull 2.9 g turns would cut turn radius, and the X2 layout can (unlike a conventional helicopter) accelerate and decelerate in a flat attitude. It's an interesting prospect, An early LTH program would depend on the Army's ability to find the money and the politics of a competition - as in the early days of the V-22 program, the problem is that no US company other than Sikorsky has a comparable aircraft at the same maturity level. But the Connecticut company is clearly preparing to take a shot at jump-starting rotorcraft development. If I was doing it, I'd think about a teaming arrangement, and I'd go with Boeing and its tool-kit of Apache and AH-6 pieces.
ar99, sikorsky, x2
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