SpeedHawk is the nickname for the X-49A experimental rotor aircraft from Piasecki. In simple terms, they have replaced the tail rotor of a standard SH-60F with a vectored thrust ducted propeller and an auxiliary power unit to gain greater airspeed and range. This is the sort of innovative project that would lose funding with Barney “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons.” Frank’s proposed 25% cut in defense spending. More detailed information can be found here.

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2 Responses to SpeedHawk

  1. Marcus says:

    Note that a standard issue UH-60 has a top speed of 160 knots/184 mph. Penn State is involved in the research, which focuses more on reduced vibration and structural loads, both huge issues with helicopters. The multi-blade units, such as the 60, already vibrate less than twin blade rotor equipped aircraft, such as the UH-1N or AH-1W, which is why both the Huey and Cobra are in the process of being converted to 4 blade units. The advantage of a twin blade setup, however, is the difficulty in locating the sound. The noise from a twin blade echoes off everything, making it very hard to pinpoint its location until it’s on top of you. For those of you who know something about motorcycles, it is not unlike comparing a Harley V-twin to an inline four. Both make vibrations, one is just a helluva lot more noticeable.
    One interesting thing I noted while watching the video is how tail heavy this bird is. I wonder what structural modifications were made to the tailboom to support the extra weight. No rotorhead I know of would intentionally set a bird down tail first, but it happens in the video multiple times. Also, if you watch a UH-60 in takeoff, the tailwheel is in the air first. It appears to me that you may be extending the life of some components of the aircraft, but that tailboom is going to be cracking sooner. I can assure you it’s easier to change servos than tailbooms. While this is an interesting idea, they need to figure out how to lighten the load.

  2. sammy says:

    Also note that this is a first phase technology test, not a production platform. Piasecki is trying to prove that their compound rotor systems and VDTP systems can significantly expand the performance envelope of rotorcraft. With Phase II of the X-49A program they expect to move up to the 220 knot target.

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