The Airbus RACER - experimental high-speed compound helicopter

By Willie Bodenstein


The Airbus RACER (Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft) is an experimental high-speed compound helicopter revealed at the June 2017 Paris air show. Developed from the Eurcopter X with a claimed cruising of up to 400 km/h (216 km) the RACER aims for a 25% cost reduction per distance over a conventional helicopter.

What sets the RACER apart from a conventional helicopter is its lateral pusher propellers that generates thrust and are isolated from passengers during ground operations by the box wings which also serve to generate lift at cruise velocity.

By October 2018, the design of key subsystems of the racer that was to be powered by Safran's 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) Aneto-1X hybrid-electric powertrain was completed. It was estimated that this unit would power the RACER to an estimated cruise of over 400 km/h (216 kn), 50% faster than a conventional helicopter. Using the so-called Eco-Mode, one of the two engines can be switched to standby during cruise flight to increase fuel savings to 30 percent. It was estimated that fuel consumption would be 15% less fuel per distance at 180 kn (333 km/h) than a conventional helicopter.

Final assembly was due to start in mid-2020 for a first flight in the fourth quarter of 2021 however, primarily due to COVID-19 pandemic-related delays, only 50% of the components were completed by the spring of 2021. The longest delay was in the delay of the gearbox which was expected to be in 2022 was only delivered in March 2023. By then taxi and powered systems testing had commenced.

Airbus Helicopters is preparing to start flight testing in late March of this year. The Racer is expected to log around 200 flight hours over the course of a two-year demonstration program. We will therefore probably not see the first production model flying in early 2028.

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