A few days ago we talked about the Sikorsky X2 project, a coaxial helicopter that can fly at a top speed of 250 knots, well above the current world record of about 216 knots.
Now comes the prompt response from the Eurocopter consortium, part of the EADS family that includes Airbus, which launched its high-speed helicopter, which was given the name, who knows whether by coincidence or as a challenge, of X3.
Despite the claimed top speed (220 knots) is less than the 250 knots achieved by its rival, what is interesting in this helicopter is the technological innovation content, especially regarding propulsion.
Although the model produced by Sikorsky uses a pair of coaxial blades, that is, mounted on the same axis and rotating parallel one above another, Eurocopter chose, in addition to the classic 5-blade main rotor with horizontal rotation, two small rotors, mounted on two fixed wings attached to the chopper’s body, which spin vertically to provide forward thrust and reach a higher speed in a shorter time.
The X3 concept is designed for use in applications where the maximum operating speed is a vital factor, such as fast raids (especially at night) behind enemy lines to strike sensitive targets, or to recover and evacuate wounded soldiers.
Everything is also achieved without an additional cost, as opposed to Sikorsky, whose coaxial rotor is significantly more expensive than the traditional one, or even than the combination between traditional and fixed-wing rotors.
In a few words, the race for the fastest helicopter on Earth has just started, and the winners may be, for once, users and purchasers of these fast toys.