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Watch one of the Army's potential Black Hawk replacements take its first flight
The SB-1 Defiant is finally here and ready to party.
After years of delays, Boeing and Sikorsky's unusual coaxial rotor helicopter conducted its first flight in the skies above Florida on Thursday, the companies announced.
"Today's flight was a tremendous success and a culmination of a lot of work by the men and women of the Sikorsky-Boeing team DEFIANT team," the joint team told Defense News ini a statement. "So much credit goes to their tireless efforts to get us to where we are today."
The Army is considering two advanced rotary-wing aircraft replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters in the U.S. Army's fleet. as part of the service's Future Vertical Lift program: the Defiant and Bell Helicopter's tilt-rotor V-280 Valor.
The SB-1 Defiant takes flight (Boeing/Sikorsky)
While the Valor enjoyed a slew of firsts in 2018 — conducting its maiden flight and achieving speeds of up to 190 knots in cruise mode — the Defiant's first flight was delayed for a year due to blade manufacturing issues, among other technical issues that threw the brakes on system testing.
"At the end of the day, this was never about how quickly we got to the first flight, but rather about providing the U.S. Army with the necessary, robust and relevant data that will enable them to make fully informed decisions as they pursue the Future Vertical Lift program and we're doing that," the Boeing-Sikorsky team told Defense News in a statement.
The Defiant is, as Task & Purpose previously described it, "a bigger, badder version" of Sikorsky's S-97 Raider, its coaxial rotor system "designed to fly at twice the speed and range of today's conventional helicopters and offers advanced agility and maneuverability," according to Lockheed.
The Pentagon's fiscal year 2020 budget request released earlier in March included roughly $790 million for Future Vertical Lift research and development, including $152 million for FVL advanced technology.
WATCH NEXT: Bell's V-280 Valor Rolls Deep In Cruise Mode
2 years after the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, the Navy has no idea if its new ship-driving training is working
Two years after a pair of deadly collisions involving Navy ships killed 17 sailors and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, the Navy still can't figure out whether its plan to improve ship-driving training has been effective.
In fact, according to senior Navy officials quoted in a recent Government Accountability Office report on Navy ship-driving, it could take nearly 16 years or more to know if the planned changes will actually have an impact.
The command chief of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was removed from his position last month after his chain of command received evidence he disrespected his subordinates.
An Air Force private housing company faked its maintenance records to get millions of dollars in bonuses
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - A U.K. company that provides housing to U.S. military families came under official investigation earlier this year, after Reuters disclosed it had faked maintenance records to pocket performance bonuses at an Oklahoma Air Force base.
At the time, Balfour Beatty Communities said it strove to correctly report its maintenance work. It blamed any problems on a sole former employee at the Oklahoma base.
Now, Reuters has found that Balfour Beatty employees systematically doctored records in a similar scheme at a Texas base.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on ProPublica.
It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson's home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia.
Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he'd get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day.
Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who'd followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed.
Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship's side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history.
Benson, who'd served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he'd never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over.
Then, days later, another of the fleet's destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill.
Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy's top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors' deaths.
The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions," it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence" and its investigation had “informed charges against" Benson and the captain of the McCain.
To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign," one admiral said recently, likening the Navy's response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern."
Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy's pursuit of him would be.