WASHINGTON — The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant coaxial demonstrator flew more than 100 knots in a Jan. 13 flight test as the aircraft — built for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program — continues to expand its flight envelope in weekly sorties.
The aircraft also maneuvered at 30-degree bank turns during the flight in a test of its agility at the Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky’s Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The program seems to have picked up the pace. In October, Ken Eland, Boeing’s director and manager of its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program, told reporters that the aircraft flew three times in March and April, but the company took a pause in flight operations after discovering an issue with the gearbox of the propulsion system test bed, or PSTB, which the team is using for extensive ground tests of the aircraft.
Defiant was back up in the air by Sept. 24 when it flew in every direction at speeds of 20 knots. The company said last fall that it planned to push the aircraft to 40 knots and believed it would be able to hit top speeds of 250 knots, which is more than the 230-knot requirement set by the Army.
The aircraft is one of two demonstrators flying as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD, program, which is meant to inform the service’s Future Vertical Lift programs of record, specifically a future long-range assault aircraft the Army wants to field by 2030.
The other demonstrator is Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor demonstrator, which as been flying for more than two years and recently completed autonomous test flight series in December.
While the official JMR TD phase has ended, according to the Army, both Valor and Defiant continue to fly as each team works to drive down risk related to technology development that would ultimately help a possible program of record move more quickly down the road.
Even though the two demonstrators are in different places in their flight test plans, Maj. Gen. Thomas Todd, the program executive officer for Army aviation, said earlier this month that the service wasn’t planning to wait for each competitor to reach the same goal posts before proceeding. The only advantage a vendor might have in meeting timelines is that it is able to burn down risk in technology development, he added.
The Army is preparing to award an other transaction authority contract to begin a competitive demonstration and risk reduction, or CDRR, effort in March. An OTA is a type of contract that enables rapid prototyping. The CDRR will consist of two phases that last approximately one year each.
“In the CDRR, we’re really trying to develop a weapons system, not the tech demonstrator,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s aviation modernization, recently said. “So we’re trying to take it to the next level.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.