Sikorsky to Rival Bell, Leonardo for NATO’s New Medium Lift Helicopter

Sikorsky Aircraft has announced its bid to join NATO’s Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) program.

The Lockheed Martin subsidiary said it is offering a modified version of its X2 coaxial high-speed helicopter to rival a proposal by Bell and Leonardo, which declared last month that they are joining the initiative as a team.

Sikorsky’s decision comes a month after it announced that it would do a comprehensive assessment of NGRC’s final set of requirements.

Company President Paul Lemmo told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Colorado that NATO already has a study contract for NGRC concepts, and the aerospace firm is now preparing to submit its proposal.

Apart from the three companies, Europe’s Airbus has also expressed interest in joining the program with its Racer helicopter, though no final decision has been made.

About the X2

Developed in 2005, Sikorsky’s X2 helicopter features counter-rotating rotor blades and an integrated auxiliary propulsion system for attack, reconnaissance, and transport missions.

It also boasts fly-by-wire flight controls for reduced weight, more effective control, and improved reliability and damage tolerance.

The platform is said to be 15 percent faster than conventional helicopters, achieving a maximum speed of 250 knots (463 kilometers/288 miles per hour) during a flight test in 2010.

Sikorsky said its cutting-edge X2 technology has made it possible to prevent excessive helicopter vibration and drag.

Potential Redemption?

Joining NATO’s NGRC program is Lockheed and Sikorsky’s third attempt in recent years to take a major helicopter program.

They likely seek redemption after losing to Bell Textron for the US Army’s $1.3-billion Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program.

Earlier this year, the company hit another setback after the army officially canceled its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft initiative, in which Sikorsky was pitching its Raider X chopper.

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