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Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant team selected for Future Long Range Assault Aircraft competitive demonstration and risk reduction program


The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant team is honored the Army selected its proven, game-changing X2 Technology for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) program. The manufacturer looks forward to developing this vital Army modernization capability.


Sikorsky Boeing SB 1 Defiant Team selected for Future Long Range Assault Aircraft Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction Program Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant (Picture source: Sikorsky-Boeing)


Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing are jointly producing a medium-lift-sized demonstrator they call SB-1 Defiant for phase one of the program. Originally planned to fly in late 2017, its first flight was delayed in April 2017 to early 2018. Sikorsky is leading the development of phase one with an aircraft based on their previous Sikorsky X2 design.

Boeing plans to lead phase two, which is the mission systems demonstrator phase. Up to 2013, Sikorsky and partners have spent $250 million on X2 and Raider. The team feels confident in the SB-1 Defiant and is paying for more than half of its design costs. The last project the companies teamed up for was the RAH-66 Comanche, which started in the 1980s and cost $7 billion before being cancelled in 2004. They say that factors outside their control, like budget cuts, "requirement creep", and a long development period caused problems with the Comanche and not team dysfunctionality. Under the Comanche program, each company built different parts of the aircraft. For JMR, employees from both companies will work together. The team named the suppliers in 2015. Swift Engineering Inc. supports the program with a major portion of the airframe structure designed and manufactured at the company's facility in San Clemente, California by an integrated team of Swift and Boeing employees.

The timeline for the first flight has slipped several times. Originally scheduled for 2017, delays arose due to a requirement to implement automated fiber placement blade manufacture at the request of the U.S. Army. Further delays resulted in the first flight slipping past summer 2018. Dynamic systems like turboshafts, transmission, and rotors were scheduled to be tested at West Palm Beach, Florida, by the end of October 2018, before ground runs in November, then first flight to reach 200 knots (230 mph; 370 km/h) within six months. The Defiant demonstrator is powered by the Honeywell T55, which powers the CH-47 Chinook. It will be slightly modified to better operate at slower propeller speeds, down to 85% rpm.

The first prototype was unveiled in December 2018, and the first flight was pushed to sometime in early 2019. Ground runs began in January 2019; 15 hours of ground tests were needed before the first flight. The first flight took place on 21 March 2019 at Sikorsky West Palm Beach site in Florida. In the summer of 2019, flights were suspended to address a bearing issue with the main rotor. Flight testing resumed 24 September 2019.