WASHINGTON — The Sikorsky S-97 Raider experimental helicopter made a hard landing Wednesday morning during a flight test.
There were no injuries to the two crew members on the aircraft, according to a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman.
The helicopter, which is the second prototype built by Sikorsky using its X2 coaxial rotor blade technology, landed from a hover during a flight test at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, at approximately 7:30 a.m., according to the Lockheed statement. The accident was first reported by West Palm Beach TV.
The company did not respond to inquiries on the extent of the damage to the helicopter or what might have caused the hard landing but said the incident is under investigation.
The Raider’s first flight took place in May 2015 at Sikorsky’s flight center and Lockheed — which now owns Sikorsky — continues to develop the X2 technology.
The S-97 was envisioned at one point as a contender replacement for the US Army’s OH-58 Kiowa Scout, but the Army changed plans and scuttled the armed aerial scout for budgetary reasons, using the AH-64 Apache on an interim basis.
Sikorsky and Boeing are in the process of building upon the successes of the X2 demonstrator — the first prototype — and Raider in order to develop a larger version of the aircraft — the SB-1 Defiant — as part of a U.S. Army program to demonstrate Future Vertical Lift (FVL) technology.
Defiant is one of two helicopter demonstrators expected to be built and flown in advance of an FVL program of record that will be designed to first replace medium-lift helicopters for the Army and Marine Corps. Bell Helicopter is building the other demonstrator — the V-280 Valor — using tiltrotor technology.
While Bell Helicopter is expected to begin to fly the V-280 this fall, Defiant is now slated to fly some time in the first half of 2018, behind the original schedule.
Wednesday’s hard landing won’t impact the progress of the X2 programs. “We fully intend to continue advancing the X2 Technology,” Lockheed stated.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.