Naming a new bomber aircraft is the easy and cheap part. Getting it of the ground, into production and into combat is the easy and hard part. But that is exactly where the US Air Force and Northrop Grumman are now at with the newly named B-21 Raider, until now only known as the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) or B-21. It should replace B-1 and B-2 bombers in the next decade or so.
The name ‘Raider’ was chosen out of suggestions made by US military service members and made public on Monday 19 September by 101 year-old World War II bomber pilot Richard E. Cole at the Air, Space & Cyber Conference 2016.
Other than its newly revealed name, the only thing known about the B-21 is that an artist’s impression shows an bomber aircraft that largely resembles a B-2 Stealth bomber. What should be different however, is the price tag. Whereas the B-2 Stealth program resulted in a staggering price tag of 2 billion USD a piece, the current plans are to aqcuire 80 to 100 B-21 Raiders against a price tag of 550 million USD a piece
Yes, so more B-21s than B-2s are to be purchased. But anyone with a bit of aviation and defense knowledge knows that a unit price of 550 million will never be achieved. The actual aircraft will of course end up a lot more expensive, although nobody seems to know or willing to predict how much more expensive it will be. Senator John McCain previously tried to get the Pentagon to divulge more about the total cost.
And that’s a wise thing to request, given the fact that other major weapons program that is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning, with a total program cost that now stand at roughly 400 billion USD. And that’s costs shared with other nations. The costs of developing and producing the B-21 Raider will definitely not be shared with other nations, given the strategic importance of the program for the US.
The B-21 Raider may well be a raider of US taxpayer’s money before anything else. The hard part, is to not let that happen.
The Sikorsky S-97 Raider took to the sky for the first time on Friday 22 May, announced by Sikorsky as a ‘legendary lift off’. The ground breaking aircraft performed ‘rock solid’, according to Sikorsky test pilot Bill Fell. The S-97 is designed to be a new airborne platform for the US military, using a new so-called X2 rotor coaxial design.
The first flight lasted one hour and took the aircraft through a series of maneuvers designed to test the aircraft’s hover and low-speed capability. A second S-97 will join tests later this year.
The single-engine Raider features a composite airframe and a maximum gross weight of slightly more than 11,000 lbs. The aircraft will be capable of carrying an array of weapons and sensors, necessary for the mission. The aircraft was first rolled out on 2 October 2014.
The cockpit fits two pilots, seated side-by-side. The flexible cabin space will carry up to six combat-equipped troops, or additional fuel and ammunition for extended missions.
Sikorsky Aircraft started the final assembly of the second S-97 Raider helicopter in West Palm Beach on 4 March 2015, Florida, the company announced.
The new helicopter is a coaxial rotor prototype aimed to serve as armed reconnaissance and special operations platform. The project was launched in October 2010, when the X2 design was mature enough to show its potential to the US Army. X2 technology was then put into the S-97. The government has so far not made any funds available to the Raider project, but Sikorsky is confident the machine will sell and works together with partners, like Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas in Virginia that makes the all-composite fuselage.
Test flights of the second Raider prototype are planned to commence this year, with its first demonstrations flights in 2016. According to calculations and tests with the X2 the new chopper should be able to reach cruise speeds above 220 knots (253 mph / 407 kmh).
Sikorsky rolled out what is very likely to be the newest, hottest chopper on the block – the S-97 Raider military assault helicopter – on 2 October 2014.
In four years time the American helicopter manufacturer put together a new mission helicopter for the US military, using a new so-called X2 rotor coaxial design. The coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and pusher propeller provide impressive cruise speeds up to 220 knots (253 mph), more than double the speed of conventional helicopters.
The Raider will be ideal for armed aerial scout or light assault. Sikorsky will offer the S-97 as a replacement for the US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet and as a special operations platform.
The single-engine Raider features a composite airframe and a maximum gross weight of slightly more than 11,000 lbs. The aircraft will be capable of carrying an array of weapons and sensors, necessary for the mission. The cockpit will fit two pilots, seated side-by-side. The flexible cabin space will carry up to six combat-equipped troops, or additional fuel and ammunition for extended missions.
Sikorsky provides 75 percent of the investment on the new chopper, while 53 principal suppliers provide the other 25 percent.