FARNBOROUGH: Sikorsky weighs new product options as S-76D nears certification

Farnborough
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Sikorsky has started to analyse the market to look for new product opportunities as two key programmes move from the development phase into production.

The armed S-70i Black Hawk entered operational service with Saudi Arabia nearly a year ago. Meanwhile, the S-76D medium twin is expected to be delivered soon after its long-delayed certification process is complete, which is now scheduled in October.

Sikorsky continues development of the CH-53K heavy lift programme for the US Marine Corps and the S-97 Raider high-speed helicopter for a possible US Army requirement.

But the helicopter maker is already considering options for deploying the development resources now occupied with the S-70i and S-76D programmes, says Mick Maurer, chief executive of Sikorsky.

The analysis is looking at a wide range of opportunities, from launching a new platform to finding new markets and applications of its existing portfolio, Maurer says.

Sikorsky has always lacked an attack helicopter in the military segment and a light-twin for the civil market, which Maurer acknowledges.

But the airframer is also actively looking at expanding Sikorsky's reach by tweaking products in its current portfolio, he says. The S-70i gave Sikorsky an armed helicopter that could be tailored to the unique requirements of a customer, rather than come with the full configuration and costs of the US military's UH-60M standard.

Such a model could be expanded to tailor platforms to niche areas, such as high-altitude capability for the Indian market, he says.

It is perhaps a long-overdue reassessment of Sikorsky's product portfolio.

Development snags on the S-76D have consumed the company's resources for longer than expected. Certification was originally scheduled in 2008, but is now expected four years later.

The flight testing phase of the certification programme is scheduled to be complete later this year, leaving two months of paperwork before the US Federal Aviation Administration makes its decision on the S-76D's airworthiness.