Air Force awards $1.3B helicopter contract to Sikorski

The Air Force awarded a $1.3 billion contract to two giant defense firms on Thursday to design and build a new combat rescue helicopter.

The deal for up to 112 new helicopters could potentially be worth up to $8 billion for the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team and was a win for Connecticut, where Sikorsky is based, and for New York, where Lockheed will develop mission equipment.

“We are honored that the Air Force has selected Sikorsky to develop and build the new Combat Rescue Helicopter,” Sikorsky President Mick Maurer said in a statement.

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“Since 1943, Sikorsky has proudly provided the combat rescue helicopter platform to enable the Air Force to perform one of its most important and sacred missions — bringing our downed service members home safely," he added.

The new armed aircraft will perform personnel recovery missions, such as rescuing downed pilots behind enemy lines, rescuing troops in combat, and evacuating those wounded.

The new contract will allow the Air Force to replace its aging HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopter fleet with a derivative of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

The new aircraft will have increased internal fuel capability and increased internal cabin space, a Sikorsky statement said.

The team was the only bidder.

At a breakfast with reporters last week, Air Force Secretary Deborah James called the proposal "a good deal" for taxpayers.

The initial contract is an estimated $1.28 billion for engineering and manufacturing, including the delivery of four helicopters and seven aircrew and maintainer training systems.

"Initial training of Air Force aircrew and maintainers and five Combat Rescue Helicopters are also expected to be delivered by 2020, once additional aircraft and training options are exercised," a Sikorsky announcement said.

"Eventual production quantities would be determined year-by-year over the life of the program, based on funding allocations set by Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense acquisition priorities," it said.