Will Airbus Helicopters' Racer establish itself as NATO's future high-performance helicopter?

Launched in 2020, the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability program aims to create the framework allowing the emergence of high-performance helicopter(s) which will be implemented by NATO countries, from 2035-2040. This involves designing the successor to maneuvering helicopters like the NH90 and the EW101, which will have to respond to technological, operational and doctrinal developments in air-land combat at this time.

In June 2022, the six participating countries (France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), allowing the start of the initial study phase, and sounding the start of the competition between American and European manufacturers, to win what will certainly be the most important non-American competition in military helicopters for the two decades to come.

Already, the two American helicopter manufacturers who had competed within the framework of the US Army's FLRAA program, Sikorsky and Bell, are positioning themselves in Europe for NGRC. However, the Airbus Helicopters Racer, which made its first flight a few days ago, certainly has all the arguments to win in this competition, thanks to a technological approach that is disconcertingly efficient.

The aeromobility of the future requires a high-performance maneuvering helicopter

The future of the combat helicopter, in its current design, is the subject of debate today, due, on the one hand, to the severe losses suffered by the Russian Mi-28 and Ka-52 fleets. in Ukraine, and, on the other, advances made in the field of drones. These are, in any case, the reasons given by the US Army to justify the cancellation of the FARA program a few months ago.

ALAT Army Aeromobility
Aeromobility will remain a key component of armies in the years and decades to come.

On the other hand, the future of heavy helicopters, such as maneuvering helicopters, key parts of combat aeromobility, is not at all threatened. In addition to transporting troops to engagement areas, these devices also play a determining role in logistics flow, medical evacuation and many other areas.

However, they too must adapt to changes on the battlefield and the enemy's means. Thus, in the future, they will be deployed from deployment sites much further from the lines than today, if only to keep out of range of opposing artillery, while the Rotation requirements, to fuel the forces, will remain the same.

In fact, these new aircraft will not only have to have a much greater reach than current maneuvering helicopters, but they will also have to go much faster, so that the duration of transit between loading zone and drop zone , remains the same as today, although much more distant.

These are the paradigms that gave birth to the Defiant-X from Sikorsky and Boeing, and the V-280 Valor from Bell, the two finalist aircraft in the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, competition intended to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. of the US Army. It was Bell's tilting rotor device that won in December 2022.

Sikorsky is already positioning itself for NATO's Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability program

In fact, for Sikorsky, the NATO NGRC program, in which 6 European countries participate, undoubtedly represents an ultimate opportunity to make its Raider model, with counter-rotating rotors and rear propulsion propeller, a commercial success, particularly after the abandonment of the FARA program to replace the OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance aircraft, and part of the US Army's AH-64 Apache, for which the aircraft manufacturer presented the Raider-X.

SB1-Defiant Sikorsky-Raider
The SB1-Defiant from Sikorsky and Boeing did not convince the US Army regarding the FLRAA program

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