An epic battle is in progress for the soul (aka dollars) of the soooooooooper-high-speed attack helicopter market. Earlier this month, copter manufacturer Sikorsky announced that in its X-2 Demonstrator, pilot Kevin Bredenbeck had achieved a sustained speed of 250 knots, or about 297 miles an hour, in level flight, and 260 knots in a “very shallow dive during flight.” Sikorsky Program Manager Jim Kagdis said, “The 250-knot milestone was established as the goal of the demonstrator from its inception.”
That’s a pretty impressive goal. About 130-140 knots tends to be the speed of a fast helicopter. The manufacturer’s “never exceed speed” for the Bell Huey AH-1 Cobra, long the core of the U.S. attack helicopter fleet, is 190 knots; it’s 197 knots for Boeing’s newer AH-64 Apache, which is replacing the Cobra. The Sikorsky’s speed of 250 knots is an unofficial record for a helicopter.
But what Connecticut-based Sikorsky really has to worry about is not Seattle/Chicago’s Boeing or Fort Worth’s Bell, but our Cabernet-swilling friends across the pond, whose Gitanes will surely be extinguished to their delight when they cook along at 220 knots (250 mph) in Eurocopter’s hybrid X3, which was unveiled recently.