International Black Hawk on course for 2011 delivery

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Sikorsky expects its Polish affiliate PZL Mielec to supply the first cabins for its International Black Hawk helicopters before the end of 2008, ahead of the type's first delivery in 2011.

The International Black Hawk, designated the S-70i, is a derivative of Sikorsky's UH-60, of which there are more than 2,900 units in service with 26 customers worldwide.

Intended to provide enhanced crashworthiness and survivability, the helicopter will undergo testing in 2010. Nine will be delivered in 2010 and 18 in 2011. Thereafter a production level of 20 units a year is envisaged, although there will be capacity for up to 36.

It is anticipated that backlog orders for the UH-60L will be transitioned to the S-70i when production of the former type ceases. Target customers have been identified in eastern Europe (including Albania, Poland and Romania), as well as Latin America and Asia.

The Sikorsky business case anticipates deliveries of 400 S-70i helicopters over a 20-year period, gaining a 25% share of a forecasted 2,000-unit market.

The Stratford, Connecticut-based manufacturer expects to be able to price the S-70i, which has maximum take-off weight of 10t, at prices similar to those of 6-8t helicopters, citing the cost-competitiveness of its international suppliers, including PZL Mielec, where a modernisation programme has been ongoing since March 2007.

Production of PZL Mielec's legacy aircraft continues. Final negotiations are under way with the Polish MoD on an order for 12 M28 Skytruck twin-engined high-wing cantilever aircraft, while eight units of the M18 Dromader single-engined low-wing type have been delivered so far in 2008, with a further seven on order for delivery before year-end.