The Piasecki X-49, nicknamed the SpeedHawk, is an experimental
helicopter currently still under development by Piasecki Aircraft
as part of a U.S. Navy sponsored project. The Piasecki X-49 is classified
as a compound helicopter, as in addition to its main rotor it also
has a rotor which provides forward thrust.
The X-49 was developed to explore ways to improve the range, performance
and load carring capabilities of the U.S. military's UH-60 Black Hawk
helicopter. As such, the X-49 is based on a production Black Hawk
airframe. Extensive modifications have been made to the aircraft,
including the addition of a third engine, an extended cabin, rear
propeller and shroud, stubby wings protruding from the fuselage, and
modifications to the fly-by-wire control system to account for the
significant changes in the helicopter's layout.
The Piasecki X-49 SpeedHawk first flew on June 29th, 2007. Since then
it has logged over 80 hours of flight time without major issues. Yet
despite it being a modern experimental aircraft, the idea of a similar
helicopter was first tested by the U.S. military back in the 1960s,
with aircraft like the Lockheed
The key to the Piasecki X-49's improved abilities over the standard
Black Hawk lies in the rear propeller of the aircraft. This Vectored
Thrust Ducted Propeller (VTDP) system replaces the conventional tail
rotor and provides anti-torque and yaw control with the additional
ability to provide forward thrust and trim control. In combination
with the stubby wings, this technology unloads the rotor, allowing
the helicopter to fly 50 percent faster, over twice the distance and
is more maneuverable with reduced vibration and fatigue loads, improving
the helicopter's reliability and reducing life cycle costs.
While the X-49's development promising and still ongoing. It's unclear
when, or if, the type will enter mainstream service with the U.S.