Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider was part of the US Army’s next generation Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program until it was abruptly cancelled in February. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

AAAA 2024 — Sikorsky is readying a bid for NATO’s Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) program based on its X2 coaxial compound, high-speed helicopter design, a third chance for the tech to take a major helo competition.

“We’re also about to submit a proposal for the NATO NGRC. They have a study contract now for aircraft concepts,” Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo told reporters at the Army Aviation Association of America conference in Colorado. “We are going to submit one [a proposal] based on X2.”

The decision comes just a month after the manufacturer told Breaking Defense that it wanted to assess a “final set of requirements” relating to NGRC, before formally pitching the X2-based offer.

The NATO competition offers the chance for a change of fortune for Sikorsky, whose Defiant X design, developed with Boeing, lost out to a Bell-designed tilt-rotor for the US Army’s high-profile Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition in December 2022, and whose Raider X helo is not expected to fly with the American land service anytime soon after the Army cancelled its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program in February. Both rotorcraft are based on X2 technology. 

Without buy-in from the Army, the development of Raider X looked to be in ruin, but Sikorsky continues to fly the aircraft for test and engineering purposes out of company facilities at West Palm Beach, Fl., and is firmly focused on NATO collaboration to potentially reap reward from years, and high dollar company funds, spent designing the helicopter.

NATO awarded Sikorsky’s parent company, Lockheed Martin, a NGRC non-proprietary open system architecture concept study contract (Concept Study 3) valued at up to €2 million ($2.2 million) in January.

At a competitor level, Bell and Italy’s Leonardo have already expressed interest in securing a NGRC concept study contract based on a joint tiltrotor design after the two forged a new partnership last month.

Europe’s Airbus has also expressed interest in the next-gen effort and could pitch a version of its civil aerospace, in-development Racer helicopter. A Racer demonstrator made its maiden flight out of Marignane, France, on Thursday. The company said in a statement that the aircraft flew for 30 minutes, an early milestone in a two-year flight test campaign.

Lemmo also said that Sikorsky is “engaged” with Italian defense officials relating to a second phase study contract for a high-speed helicopter requirement. The future rotorcraft is sought by the Italian Army to strengthen its existing rotary fleet.