On September 7, 2021 the Sikorsky-Boeing team released the following statement on the early submittal of the proposal for DEFIANT X for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).
This statement can be attributed to Paul Lemmo, president, Sikorsky, and to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager, Vertical Lift, Boeing Defense, Space & Security:
«Continuing a 75-year partnership with the U.S. Army, providing and sustaining the iconic BLACK HAWK, Chinook and Apache, the Sikorsky-Boeing team looks to the future with the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft – DEFIANT X. Today, Team DEFIANT completed and submitted the proposal for the U.S. Army’s FLRAA competition, offering low-risk, transformational capability that delivers on an Army critical modernization priority and advances the future of Army aviation. DEFIANT X delivers speed where it matters, survivability, unsurpassed power, maneuverability, superior handling in any environment and lower lifecycle costs – while operating in the same footprint as the BLACK HAWK. We are confident that DEFIANT X, supported by our longstanding Army industrial base suppliers, is the best choice for delivering overmatch on the Multi-Domain Operational battlefield in United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and across the globe».
A contract to build nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters with an additional contract option for nine more aircraft was awarded to Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company on June 25.
The Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Lot 5 contract will deliver nine aircraft in 2024 as part of a 200 aircraft program of record for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Lot 5 contract contains an option for Lot 6, for an additional nine aircraft with a contract award in FY22.
«This contract award is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to execute this critical program in support of the U.S. Marine Corps’ heavy lift requirement», said Colonel Jack Perrin, Program Manager, PMA-261 heavy lift helicopter program manager.
The Lot 5 contract is for $878.7 million, bringing the Sikorsky element of the aircraft cost of those nine aircraft to $97.6 million each. The Lot 6 aircraft cost reduces to $94.7 million each, for a Lot 6 total contract cost of $852.5 million. These costs do not include engine and other Government Furnished Equipment.
The FY21 Lot 5 and FY22 Lot 6 contracts represent an average unit airframe cost reduction of $7.4M from FY20 Lot 4 to FY22 Lot 6.
The program will start Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in July 2021 and is poised to support the Marine Corps’ declaration of Initial Operational Capability. In preparation for commencement of IOT&E, three System Demonstration Test Article aircraft are currently being operated by Marine Corps’ Operational Test and Evaluation squadron, VMX-1, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
«As the long-range logistic support backbone for the U.S. Marine Corps, it is essential that we get this critical capability to the fleet as quickly and as affordably as possible», said Perrin.
The Lot 5 award brings the program total aircraft, either delivered or on contract, to 33.
The Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, the HH-60W Jolly Green II, completed its developmental test program at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), April 13.
The final test by the Sikorsky and Air Force team was on the aircraft’s weapon systems. The goal of the test was to both demonstrate the performance of the weapons while optimizing weapon-system configurations.
«The timely completion of this test program represents an amazing accomplishment by the HH-60W Jolly Green II Integrated Test Team», said Joe Whiteaker, the 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) HH-60W Jolly Green II flight chief. «The team consistently overcame tremendous adversity through a mix of innovation and sheer determination».
The result of those labors ensured both the warfighter and the program’s decision-makers were well-informed on the HH-60W Jolly Green II’s performance.
The test efforts began May 2019 with the first HH-60W Jolly Green II flight. The aircraft arrived at Eglin AFB to the 413th FLTS November 2019, although various tests took place in other locations. The integrated test team accumulated more than 1,100 flight test hours across six aircraft testing the full spectrum of aircraft systems.
Some of the notable developmental tests included aircraft performance, communications systems, environmental tests at McKinley Climatic Lab, aerial refueling, data links, defensive systems, cabin systems, rescue hoist and live-fire of three weapon systems.
The test aircraft will be modified for operational use before being transferred to their respective Air Force rescue unit. The Jolly Green II’s developmental test mission will move to the Combat Search and Rescue Combined Test Force for follow-on testing at Nellis AFB, Nevada in 2022.
«I am incredibly proud of the many people from so many organizations who have come together to pull off a really challenging test program», said Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Dirkes, the 413 FLTS commander. «The team’s relentless focus on keeping the end in mind, aligning activity with their goals and moving forward quickly with discipline resulted in execution of a safe and highly successful test program in the face of incredible pressure».
We are excited about our continued partnership with the U.S. Army on the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) program to develop this vital modernization capability. DEFIANT X builds on the handling qualities and transformational capabilities proven in flight tests by our SB>1 DEFIANT technology demonstrator and is already undergoing testing and evaluation in a digital combat environment. The result is an adaptable design that delivers transformational speed, range and unprecedented maneuverability at the X. DEFIANT X will be a critical enabler for full-spectrum convergence of Army and joint operations assets on the multi-domain operational battlefield.
As we ramp up CD&RR we will refine the final set of weapon system requirements and complete our preliminary design review for our DEFIANT X weapon system. Supporting this review will be subsystem preliminary design reviews conducted with our exceptional suppliers. The overarching objective of this phase of the program is to enable the successful execution of detailed design following contract down-select. The team of hundreds of hand-picked experts from Sikorsky and Boeing will continue their work to develop an optimized assault aircraft for the Army. Additional activities will include:
Refining our virtual prototype, utilizing a digital twin and digital design techniques that are embedded in our processes today. State-of-the-art digital design and manufacturing is already in use on other production programs, and will enable the Army to not only lower the acquisition cost, but enable rapid, affordable upgrades to stay ahead of the evolving threat. We will continue to sharpen our tools with data from flight test, our powered system test bed, end to end SIL, Sikorsky S-97 RAIDER flight test, and other risk reduction activities.
Sharpening and demonstrating our Modular Open Systems Approach which will enable the Army to readily modify and upgrade DEFIANT X as new needs and opportunities appear.
Closing on the details around an exceptional warfighter experience, including the pilots in the cockpit, crew chiefs and troops in the cabin. Maintainers will continue to perform procedures at scale in virtual reality labs, sharing their perspective with designers on everything from ease of access, to ergonomics, to how straightforward it is to remove parts for servicing.
Quantifying the exceptional reliability, maintainability and availability that is better than the proven UH-60 BLACK HAWK despite the leap in capability.
Background on CD&RR:
Although the development and design completed under CD&RR Phase II will continue to inform the USG for their FLRAA down select in mid-2022, the effort in Phase II is also part of a series of developmental steps and design reviews. Phase II is focused on functionality, integration and developing all the data and artifacts to accomplish a preliminary design review.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, and Boeing on January 25, 2021 released details of its advanced helicopter for the U.S. Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft competition, known as FLRAA. The aircraft, named Defiant X, will be the fastest, most maneuverable and most survivable assault helicopter in history. Combined with the team’s unsurpassed experience in mission systems, training and sustainment, it will revolutionize the way the Army meets threats in 2035 and beyond.
Defiant X is a complete weapon system that builds on the handling qualities and transformational capabilities proven by the team’s technology demonstrator, SB>1 Defiant. With unmatched range and survivability, Defiant X will to fly low and fast through complex terrain, land quickly, deliver soldiers and equipment to the objective area (referred to as «the X») and get out.
Defiant X flies twice as far and fast as the venerable Black Hawk helicopter it is designed to replace. Currently undergoing testing in a digital combat environment, the aircraft continues to prove itself the most survivable platform for mission requirements.
«We are ready to deliver unparalleled capabilities backed by proven technologies that will truly transform the Army’s mission today – with room to grow and adapt to the missions of tomorrow», said Andy Adams, Sikorsky vice president of Future Vertical Lift. «Defiant X not only includes the transformational aircraft, mission systems and revolutionary sustainment solution, but also leverages Sikorsky’s and Boeing’s advanced manufacturing capabilities».
With its rigid coaxial rotor system and pusher propeller, Defiant X incorporates Sikorsky X2 Technology to operate at high speeds while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. This critical capability provides soldiers with increased maneuverability and survivability in high-threat air defense environments, allowing them to penetrate enemy defenses while reducing exposure to enemy fire.
«Defiant X is purpose-built for a modernized Army that requires expanded reach, survivability and lethality», said Steve Parker, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift. «This weapon system will give soldiers unequaled technological advantage and connectivity over adversaries in a multi-domain battle space».
Defiant X will revolutionize the Army’s air assault capability with limited changes in tactics, techniques, procedures, training and infrastructure while maintaining the Black Hawk helicopter footprint and tight formation capability flown today.
The Army is expected to release a request for proposal on FLRAA later this year, with a contract award expected in 2022.
The 23rd Wing and 347th Rescue Group leadership received the Air Force’s first two HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters at Moody Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia, November 5.
Aircrew from the 41st Rescue Squadron out of Moody AFB and the 413th Flight Test Squadron and 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron, both at Duke Field, Florida, flew the aircraft from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Training Academy.
The HH-60W Jolly Green II comes equipped with a wide range of capabilities that will ensure its crews continue carrying out their critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services and allies in contested and diverse environments. The HH-60W Jolly Green II features advanced and improved defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, hover performance, electrical capacity, avionics, cooling, weapons, cyber-security, environmental and net-centric requirements.
The primary mission of the HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter will be conducting day or night operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. The platform will also be tasked to perform military operations other than war, including civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space-flight support, and rescue command and control.
The delivery of the new model is significant to the personnel recovery mission as it begins the transition from the predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk model, which has been flown for more than 26 years. The Air Force will continue to utilize the HH-60G Pave Hawk model until the transition is complete.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company will build six additional production CH-53K King Stallion helicopters under a new contract for the U.S. Navy. The aircraft will further support the U.S. Marine Corps in its mission to conduct expeditionary heavy-lift assault transport of armored vehicles, equipment and personnel to support distributed operations deep inland from a sea-based center of operations.
The six helicopters are part of 200 aircraft Program of Record for the U.S. Marine Corps, and their addition makes a total of 24 CH-53K King Stallion production aircraft now under contract. Under the terms of this most recent contract – known as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 4 – Sikorsky will begin deliveries of the six aircraft in January 2024.
«This contract award is a testament to the government’s confidence in the CH-53K platform. This award shows that we are working hard to make the aircraft more affordable», said Major General Greg Masiello, program executive office, air Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), assault and special mission programs. «The capability and affordability of the CH-53K is important to ensure that we provide a valuable addition to the United States Marine Corps and our friends and allies».
King Stallion Production Marches Ahead
The CH-53K King Stallion program has five aircraft on the line at Sikorsky facilities in Connecticut and over two dozen in various stages of production. The program will deliver the first low rate initial production aircraft in September 2021.
Sikorsky and its suppliers have made significant investments in facilities, machinery, tooling, and workforce training to ramp up production required for the CH-53K King Stallion program. For example, for the first time, newly installed 10-ton cranes lifted a 12,000 lbs./5,443 kg gearbox into a CH-53K King Stallion production aircraft.
«The production of this CH-53K helicopter represents a new era in capabilities, technologies, safety and mission flexibility for the U.S. Marine Corps. Sikorsky is committed to supporting the Marine Corps to maximize the benefits of this all new helicopter», said Bill Falk, Sikorsky CH-53K program director.
«Pilots are already training on state-of-the art flight training devices to prepare in a safe, cost-effective manner for operational deployment», Falk said.
CH-53K Proving Capabilities
The CH-53K King Stallion is also nearing the conclusion of the developmental flight test events in preparation for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E), having flown more than 2,000 flight hours validating the aircraft’s performance on a ship and in both hot and cold environments. This year, the aircraft completed:
Air-to-air refueling with an external load
Initial sea trials
Flight tests in extremely hot and dusty conditions at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona
Other accomplishments include:
Maximum weight single-point cargo hook sling load of 36,000 pounds/16,329 kilograms
Forward flight speed of over 150 knots/173 mph/278 km/h
60-degree angle-of-bank turns
Altitude of 18,500 feet/5,639 m Mean Sea Level (MSL)
A team of pilots and engineers from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River recently completed a crucial series of sea trials of the CH-53K King Stallion that not only provided them with valuable developmental test information about the aircraft, but could change the way the squadron conducts similar tests in the future.
The test team of 96 personnel embarked on the USS Wasp (LHD-1) in early June to conduct an intensive series of tests that were designed to establish the helicopter’s performance envelope for day and night launches and recoveries at a wide range of wind speeds, to test engaging, disengaging, folding, and unfolding the rotors in a variety of wind conditions, and to allow maintenance crews from Sikorsky and Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 to practice working on the aircraft in at-sea conditions.
«We went to sea with a robust test plan», said Maj Joshua «Felon» Foxton, CH-53K King Stallion sea trials project officer. «Typically, you include more test points than you can reasonably expect to accomplish, which gives us greater flexibility in executing the plan. But due largely to the success of the aircraft, we were able to accomplish all of our objectives while we were underway».
Over the course of the 14-day detachment, the team members who were embarked on Wasp accomplished just over 32 hours of flying, well over a third of which were flown at night. Altogether, the team achieved 364 landings, of which 74 were conducted using night vision devices. The team successfully launched and recovered to all spots, and was able to launch 13 sorties in the first eight days of ship-based maintenance.
Foxton praised the CH-53K’s performance, noting that the responsive and well-tuned fly-by-wire controls make shipboard landings much easier and more precise than is possible with many other helicopters. «It’s a real testament to the stability of the aircraft», Foxton said.
Lieutenant Colonel Fred «NOVAC» Neubert, department head and government lead test pilot for the CH-53K King Stallion program, agreed with Foxton’s assessment. «There may be other aircraft out there with similar performance capabilities, but I have not flown a helicopter with the outstanding handling qualities that the 53K provides», Neubert said.
The aircraft performed so well, in fact, that the test team succeeded in testing nearly all of the aircraft’s launch and recovery envelope expansion – the team’s primary test objective – within the first seven days of the trip, leaving the second week to thoroughly pursue the other objectives. As a result, the test team was able to devote more time to identifying refinements and minor improvements to suggest to the manufacturer than it otherwise would have had. Foxton recalled how, during one post-flight debriefing, one of the team’s veteran flight engineers pointed out, «Do you realize we just spent 15 minutes talking about whether we could improve the windshield wipers»?
«We were able to focus on those little things because the big things took care of themselves», Foxton said.
Teamwork was another major factor in the detachment’s success. «It can sometimes take weeks or months for a team to coalesce, but we had 14 days underway to forge a team», Foxton said. «Thanks to the professionalism of the contractors, our Marine counterparts in VMX-1, and our colleagues in the Navy, we were able to accomplish everything so thoroughly that we were actually ably to fly the aircraft off a day earlier than we had planned. That was inspiring».
Neubert and Foxton also had plenty of praise for the Wasp’s crew. «The crew was amazing», Foxton said. «They carefully negotiated winds and weather for us in order to get the ship in the exact position with the conditions we needed for every test point. Their true professionalism enabled all of our successes».
«One of the things that stands out about this detachment was the quality of the ship’s crew from the leadership on down, their commitment to figuring out a way to make it work no matter what we needed», Neubert said. «I think that reflects the command culture. The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Greg Baker, likes to get to ‘Yes.’ Every department embodied that mentality».
The envelope expansion testing that the team accomplished has resulted in the largest fleet envelope for any Navy and Marine Corps helicopter currently in existence, according to the squadron.
«I think this detachment is going to rewrite how we plan a test phase», Foxton said. «It’s an opportunity for us to find very specific efficiencies in our testing, which will in turn increase our speed to the fleet».
Neubert agreed. «In flight test, we specialize in risk mitigation and preparing for how we will respond to something that goes wrong», Neubert explained. «What we discovered in this test is that in the future, we’ll want to spend more time planning how we will we respond if something goes unexpectedly great».
«Our objective is to provide the fleet Marines with a safer and more effective platform with greater operational capability, and this detachment was a successful example of that», Neubert said. «This is why we do flight test – because we come from the fleet, and we want to give good products back to the fleet».
Approximately 3,000 feet/914 meters above Eglin Air Force Base, the HH-60W Jolly Green II connected with a HC-130J tanker for the inaugural aerial refueling by the Air Force’s newest combat search and rescue helicopter, August 5.
The connection marked the start of two weeks of developmental testing of the aircraft’s aerial refueling abilities by 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) testers and their mission partners.
«This capability is essential for the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission since it greatly extends the operating range of the aircraft and thus allows the unit to extend their rescue capabilities over a larger battlespace», said Joe Whiteaker, 413th FLTS Combat Rescue Helicopter flight chief.
Throughout the tests, the aircrew and engineers will evaluate the helicopter’s ability to connect with the fuel drogue and its handling qualities during the fueling. They also monitor the functionality of the systems and gauges to ensure the aircraft receives the fuel appropriately with the proper pressures.
«Our job is to evaluate how difficult aerial refueling will be for operational pilots and to identify any unforeseen hazards due to the unique configuration of the HH-60W Jolly Green II, which may not have been present in the legacy HH-60G Pave Hawk», Whiteaker said.
Early missions will be during daylight hours. Testing will conclude with a nighttime evaluation using night vision goggles.
«This is a critical test milestone for the program as it reinforces the superior capabilities of the HH-60W Jolly Green II and its ability to support the Air Force’s CSAR mission», said Greg Hames, Sikorsky Combat Rescue Helicopter program director.
Major Andrew Fama, 413th FLTS pilot, was the Air Force pilot for the refueling mission. He evaluated the handling qualities and made the first contacts. He and the aircrew spent extra time preparing for the mission that included talking through the test sequence and rehearsing the phraseology used during the refueling. It was that extra time spent that made for a smooth mission without issues, according to Fama.
«It’s rare for a test pilot to have the opportunity to test a new aircraft replacing the one he or she flew operationally and to be the first one to do something like this», Fama said. «It was an honor to be the pilot to fly this mission and work with a truly professional test team».
The aerial refueling mission marks yet another 2020 milestone for the HH-60W Jolly Green II program. So far, the HH-60W Jolly Green II has undergone radar, weather and defensive system testing to name a few.
«The execution of this critical test is yet another demonstration of our successful partnership with the Air Force and brings us one step closer to delivering this much needed helicopter to our Airmen», Hames said.
An HH-60W Jolly Green II, the Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, completed a month-long trial of extremes inside the McKinley Climatic Lab April 2.
The Sikorsky test aircraft endured real temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit/from 49 degrees to minus 51 degrees Celsius as well as 45 mph/72 km/h winds coupled with heavy rainfall. All of those scenarios were created within the lab’s 55,000-square-foot/5,110-square-meter test chamber.
The goal of these punishing tests was to prove the new aircraft’s sustainability in any operational environment.
«Operating the HH-60W in the extreme conditions was a truly unique experience as a pilot and a tester», said Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Coates, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot, who also performed most of the testing. «Checking system performance under the stress of heat, cold, heavy wind and rain will give us real-world data regarding the helicopter’s capability to perform the rescue mission worldwide in various environments, which is exactly what the operator needs to make solid employment decisions».
Once the lab technicians created extreme environments, the aircrew would enter the aircraft and perform various test procedures. The crew would execute their preflight checklists and perform tasks to see if the extreme conditions affected any of the avionics, electronics, engine and other systems.
The aircrew performing the procedures were also test subjects themselves. Their own reactions and movements were evaluated in the harsh environments. For example, the cold-weather gear worn by the aircrew is much bulkier than a standard flight suit. One of the evaluations was to ensure the pilots could easily reach all of the aircraft controls in the thicker cold-weather gear.
A significant amount of the test schedule was dedicated to preparing the chamber for extreme conditions. McKinley’s lab professionals create, break-down, and recreate again for each new test environment. Technicians worked continuously to go from a superheated 100-degree desert condition to a below-freezing icebox in only three days.
«McKinley Climatic Laboratory maintains quickness and technical proficiency by retaining our own staff of highly experienced welders, machinists, electricians, instrumentation experts, test assembly personnel and refrigeration operators», said William Higdon, the lab’s technical advisor. «Our main mission is to support the warfighter and to ensure any environment they encounter in the field; their equipment has already been proven in those extremes».
The Jolly Green II created some unique challenges for McKinley Lab personnel. The lab technicians created a system specifically for the HH-60W to remove the aircraft’s exhaust. Thorough exhaust removal is a critical part of maintaining the controlled temperature conditions needed for chamber testing, according to lab technicians working on the test.
The design of the ventilation system meant the aircraft’s blades were removed for the duration of the testing. The lab’s in-house fabrication shop also specially designed brackets for the aircraft’s weapons among other items.
«Successful completion of this test is absolutely shared with the Sikorsky and McKinley teams», said Ben Walker, 413th Flight Test Squadron lead test engineer for the effort and Air Force PALACE Acquire journeyman. «Everyone worked together extremely well and we completed on time and on budget. I am very thankful for this opportunity to perform exciting engineering work, while also supporting the warfighter».
After testing in the climatic lab, the HH-60W will return to Sikorsky’s test facility in West Palm Beach for further evaluation. The HH-60W developmental test program is a joint effort between Sikorsky, the 413th FLTS, the 88th TES and Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center. Test aircraft are primarily split between Duke Field here and Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach facility.
«Testing on the combat rescue helicopter continued amidst the chaos of COVID-19», said Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. «While the situation could change at any moment, we have not lost any test schedule thus far. That is a testament to the entire team’s attitude and willingness to work through challenges».