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Sikorsky-Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant has fallen months behind its scheduled first flight in the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD), even as Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor marches toward its first flight in September.
The army’s JMR-TD serves as the precursor to the service’s Future Vertical Lift competition, which will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook. Sikorsky-Boeing is pushing its coaxial rotor-pusher propeller Defiant. The Valor offers a tiltrotor that resembles an improved V-22 Osprey.
The Defiant was expected to fly this fall, but Boeing has pushed first flight until early 2018. The company did not encounter a significant issue that caused the delay, says Boeing’s Defiant programme manager, Pat Donnelly.
The aircraft was supposed to have flown for the first time last year, but the composite blade manufacturing process has delayed this. At the request of the US Army, Sikorsky-Boeing used an automated fiber placement machine to manufacturer the helicopter’s blades.
“To set the precedent for the future of being a low-cost aircraft we went right in with an automated approach,” said Ken Eland, Future Vertical Lift programme manager for Boeing. “As I put it to someone in the Army, the first spar took us two years to build; the last spar took us 11 days.”