Now that the Marines have fielded the revolutionary MV-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor aircraft, they have some problems. The one we will deal with today is that the usual gunship escort of the Marines, the AH-1 Cobra, is not really fast enough to keep up with the Osprey.
The Department of Defense has been trying to make a faster and more capable helicopter for many years now. The Osprey Tilt Rotor is one of the ways that they were able to make an aircraft with the vertical take off and landing capabilities of a helicopter and the fast flight of a fixed wing aircraft.
Although the Osprey has had its share of problems, we won't go into that today.
So that brings us to the Sikorsky X2. The X2 is a technology demonstrator from helicopter pioneers Sikorsky and is still in testing. It differs from most traditional helicopters in that it has two blades on top of each other that spin in opposite directions. This design has been used on other helicopters, notably the Russian Ka-50 Black Shark attack helicopter. However the X2 also incorporates an auxiliary propeller on the tail to increase its speed in forward flight. The rear propeller is not a new idea either and had been a feature on the AH-56 Cheyenne helicopter. In addition to the obvious changes, it also makes use of technologies gleaned from the canceled Comanche Helicopter project such as the composite rotor blades and an advanced transmission. The X2 also uses of improved set of fly by wire controls developed for the Cypher VTOL UAV.
Tru TV or Blackhawk Down to see what happens when they break. Since the speed of the advancing rotor tip is the main limitation to the maximum speed of a helicopter, the twin rotor allows for a higher maximum speed than other helicopters.
The X2 will likely not see any military service for some time though. The Osprey first flew in 1985, and was not really used until this year. Hopefully the X2 will have an easier time working out its bugs. When it does enter service, it will bring capabilities that no one in the world can match. (For now)