China Planning High Speed Helicopter to Compete Against Boeing-Sikorsky’s Defiant-X

China has announced its intentions to develop a high speed helicopter similar to Boeing-Sikorksy’s Defiant-X project that has co-axial rotors, stealth features and a maximum speed to 400 km per hour- about a third more than the top speed of the fastest helicopters today.

China is also looking to make a technological leap from fourth-generation to fifth-generation models by developing high-speed helicopters, Global Times reported quoting Xu Jianhua, head of AVIC-affiliated China Helicopter Research and Development Institute told the Global Times on the sidelines of a future helicopter design tournament that kicked off in North China’s Tianjin Municipality last Thursday.

China’s future helicopters could also integrate high technologies including AI, the Internet of Things, 5G communications, new energy and new materials. For example, AI could be applied in situational awareness enhancement, decision-making assistance, intelligent pilot-helicopter interaction, smart cockpits, autopilots, boundary protection, noise-reducing smart rotor adjustments and smart landing gears, Deng Jinghui, the chief designer at the institute, said.

Xu said that future helicopters could also see drastic design changes that overthrow the current, conventional helicopter design. These new concepts could include aircraft powered by electric rotors, rotorcraft that can switch modes among flying in the air, sailing on water surfaces and submerging under water, and rotorcraft designed with easily detachable modules for different missions.

Many of these concepts were already reflected in the helicopter design tournament, the report said.

The Sikorsky-Boeing team is building the DEFIANT X for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition.The helicopter is developed from the SB>1 DEFIANT technology demonstrator. It will enable crews 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. It flies twice as far and fast as the venerable Black Hawk helicopter it is designed to replace.

The Sikorsky-Boeing team isn’t the only industry player developing a new platform for the FLRAA initiative. A Bell-Textron team has also built an aircraft, the V-280 Valor. The V-280’s latest flight statistics includes forward flight at 280 knots true airspeed, over 85 hours of flight and 180 rotor turn hours, in-flight transitions between cruise mode and vertical take-off and landing, 45-degree banked turns at 200 knots indicated airspeed, 4500 feet per minute rate of climb and sustained flight at 11,500 feet altitude, single flight ferry of over 370 miles, and fly-by-wire controls.

The Army awarded Bell Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing team approximately $290 million in late March this year to accelerate development of major subsystems and weapons that would go on their FLRAA aircraft.

The Army is expected to release a request for proposal on FLRAA later this year, with a contract award expected in 2022.