Dystopian literature has been on the rise in the last ten years. I don’t have a stat to back that up, but every new youth fiction series that has gained accolades has been about a dystopian future: Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and Babysitters’ Club. That last one reads way different if you adjust your mindset first.
Sikorsky and Boeing have updated their entry into the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault competition. It is designated as the SB-1 Defiant, and it looks like something straight out of a “near future” dystopian fiction.
The Army is looking to update its aging vertical lift fleet (fancy words for “helicopters”) by 2030. The Blackhawks, Kiowas, Chinooks, and Apaches have all been in service since the 1980s-1990s. Most of them began development in the 1960s & 1970s… According to the Army, modernizing the helicopter fleet has become more important as it has continued to function in the extreme terrain of Afghanistan.
A prototype of the SB-1 flew last year, and since then, the development team has tweaked the design. The nosecone is sleeker, a triangular style landing gear is added, and the exhaust system changes were made to decrease the thermal profile. The SB-1 has counter-rotating rotors, and instead of a tail rotor, a pusher propeller in its place. The Defiant includes fly-by-wire controls and some autonomy capability. This is supposed to lead to increased safety and a workload reduction for the crew and operations in complex environments. Skynet isn’t that far away.
Test Flight Last Year
The Defiant has achieved a speed of 211 knots (242 mph) in straight-and-level flight and 232 knots (267 mph) in a descent. Not quite the statistic of our future hellscape, but that is 20 mph faster than a Blackhawk. There’s a big difference between 80 mph and 60 mph. That difference is exaggerated the faster you are going.
The Developers are preaching versatility with the Defiant. Yes, it can fly fast, but it can also carry stuff and shoot stuff. That’s how specific their press release reads.
Here is their animation that they released with their statement about the updates to the Defiant.
The V-22 Osprey still is considered the fastest vertical rotor aircraft, but the Army does not utilize those. The Osprey began development in 1981 and didn’t see field service until 2007 with the U.S. Marine Corps.
My days of seeing Chinooks, Blackhawks, and the occasional Apache flying overhead may be numbered. But it is probably still a big number. The helicopters of the future are definitely going to be interesting looking.