Flight_International 28Jan2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1


18 | Flight International | 28 January-3 February 2020 flightglobal.com

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World Air Forces Report


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ikorsky and Boeing have
continued to flight test their
SB-1 Defiant compound helicop-
ter, recently pushing the
demonstrator to speeds of over
100kt (185km/h).
“The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-
Defiant continues to expand its
flight envelope through sorties
each week, executing the mission
elements required for Future
Vertical Lift, most recently
exceeding 100kt and performing
manoeuvres at 30° angle of bank
at the Sikorsky Development
Flight Test Center in West Palm
Beach, Florida,” the two firms say.
Video footage released by the
Sikorsky-Boeing team on 17 Jan-
uary addressed questions about
the rotorcraft’s status, which had
been unclear since gearbox
troubles put it behind schedule.


eonardo has conducted the
first flight of its Falco Xplorer
unmanned air vehicle (UAV),
with a roughly 60min sortie
performed from Trapani air base
in Sicily on 15 January.
Staged in conjunction with the
Italian air force’s test flight centre,
the debut used segregated air-
space in the Gulf of Trapani.
“The remotely piloted air
system will now embark on a
series of flight campaigns which
will assess the aircraft’s full range
of capabilities, including its
integrated sensor system,” the
company says. This activity will

also look to expand the flight
envelope for the UAV, “dramati-
cally expanding the territory over
which it can operate”.
Unveiled at the Paris air show
last June, the Falco Xplorer has a
projected 24h flight endurance at
a service ceiling of over 24,000ft.
With a 1.3t maximum take-off
weight, the intelligence, surveil-
lance and reconnaissance (ISR)
asset can carry multiple sensors,
with a maximum payload of
350kg (795lb).
Optional equipment includes
Leonardo’s Gabbiano T-
surveillance radar, its Sage elec-

tronic intelligence suite, a turret-
housed electro-optical/infrared
sensor and an automatic identifi-
cation system fit for monitoring
maritime vessels. Third-party
systems can also be integrated.

Leonardo describes the Falco
Xplorer – its largest UAV product
to date – as “readily exportable
around the world”. The company
is also offering managed ISR
services using the system. ■

Additional uncertainty arose
last year, when the US Army
stopped funding its Joint Multi-
Role Technology Demonstration
(JMR-TD) activity, being conduct-
ed in support of its Future

Vertical Lift programme.
The Sikorsky-Boeing team has
not revealed how many hours
their Defiant demonstrator has
logged since its delayed debut
sortie in March 2019. Bell’s rival

SB-1 has made faltering progress since debut flight in March 2019


Remotely piloted UAV has a
projected endurance of 24h



Delayed Defiant pushes the envelope

Partnership insists rotorcraft can hit expected performance targets after resolving demonstrator’s gearbox troubles

V-280 Valor tiltrotor had accumu-
lated over 150h of flight time over
two years as of December 2019.
Last October, Sikorsky and
Boeing outlined plans to increase
the Defiant’s speed during test
flights in 40kt increments to 230kt
by the end of the first quarter this
year. A subscale model has al-
ready been successfully tested at
250kt at the NASA Ames Re-
search Center in California.
With its JMR-TD programme
ended, the US Army has shifted
focus to a final competition to
replace its Sikorsky UH-60 Black
Hawk utility helicopters. The ser-
vice began soliciting conceptual
designs for its Future Long Range
Assault Aircraft requirement in
September 2019. It aims to equip
initial units with the new
rotorcraft no later than 2030. ■


Falco Xplorer embarks on airborne test campaign

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