WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Sikorsky is set to begin assembly of its S-97 Raider light attack helicopter this week and an announcement from the manufacturer is expected soon.
A Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. spokesperson confirmed the schedule, which marks the imminent entry of Sikorsky in a market likely to give the manufacturer an edge, at least for now, over competition in the tactical attack area.
"Imagine a next-generation attack helicopter platform so advanced that it can reach speeds more than 220 knots, flying as high as 10,000 feet in 95 degrees of heat," Defense News said. The Sikorsky S-97 Raider helicopter is poised to realize this vision and to revolutionize next-generation military aviation, the news website said.
Industry analysts told United Press International the S-97 carried huge potential in the right conditions.
Modern warfare is going through profound changes, not least because of the entry of increasingly sophisticated unmanned aerial systems. Advancements in unmanned aircraft are likely to see more innovations, multitasking and the appearance of various unmanned vehicles in military and quasi-civilian roles such as search and rescue.
Amid this flux comes the S-97 Raider with multi-mission capabilities expects to meet initially conventional U.S. Army and Special Operations future requirements in a variety of combat roles. Foreign orders usually follow on from there.
There could be S-97 Raider applications for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the Marine Corps, Defense News said. Industry analysts told UPI similar versatility would likely be applied in any international purchases of the aircraft. There's a huge market waiting to be tapped in the Middle East, East Asia and parts of Africa, they said.
The S-97 was formally launched on October 2010 and is intended as a possible contender for the U.S. Army's armed aerial scout duties, replacing the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
The U.S. Special Operations Command is also said to be eyeing the aircraft as a a replacement for the HM-6 Little Bird though no details are known yet.
Sikorsky says the S-97 applies proven technology and mission systems to meet the Armed Aerial Scout requirements with low risk.
The aircraft should enter ground and flight testing in 2014, Flightglobal said on its website.
In addition to flying at nearly twice the speed of a conventional helicopter, the S-97 Raider prototype aircraft will incorporate other key performance parameters critical to combat operations: increased maneuverability, greater endurance, reduced acoustic noise signature, and the ability to operate at high altitudes, Aurora Flight Sciences said on its website.
Shephard Media reported in March Sikorsky has placed a $15 million price tag on the S-97 Raider, "as it attempts to convince the U.S. Army that the aircraft is a low-risk replacement for the Kiowa Warrior."
The price was mentioned by Sikorsky executives at the Heli-Expo exhibition in Las Vegas last March. Sikorsky has headquarters in Stratford, Conn.