Defiant Vs. Valor: Inside the Head-to-Head Helo Battle To Replace the Black Hawk
The UH-60 Black Hawk is a helicopter legend, and the battle to replace it is heating up.
In 2022 the Army will choose a new aircraft to replace its Reagan-era UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Two contenders from Sikorsky-Boeing and Bell will battle it out to become the winner of the Service’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program and the Army’s next combat helo when it deploys in 2030.
But “helicopter” isn’t even the right word to describe these two aerial beasts.
Bell’s V-280 is actually a tilt-rotor, similar to the V-22 Osprey currently flown by the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy but smaller and with a V-tail. Rather than relying on a single large main rotor for lift in forward flight and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, it tilts two large rotors (called prop-rotors) at each of its wingtips 90 degrees from horizontal to vertical and back. It’s essentially an airplane in forward flight and twin-rotor helicopter in VTOL flight.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky-Boeing’s SB-1 might look like a normal helicopter, but it’s actually a “compound helicopter,” including stacked, counter-rotating main rotors, a pusher propeller, and aircraft-like rudders. The pusher-propeller can provide significant forward thrust, relieving the need to tilt its main rotor for forward flight. Counter-rotating main rotors give extra lift, stability and smoothness. This gives the SB-1 speed, climb, and VTOL advantages over normal helicopters.