Sikorsky awarded up to $7.9 billion rescue helicopter deal

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Sikorsky has been awarded a $1.28 billion contract covering initial development work for the US Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter – the first step in a deal that could be worth an eventual $7.9 billion.

In all, the service is hoping to acquire 112 of the new Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH), to replace its fleet of ageing Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawks.

The contract, announced on 26 June, covers engineering, development and manufacturing of four examples of the CRH, as well as integration of the rescue mission systems, a US Department of Defense award notification states.

A further five helicopters, as well as initial training for crew and maintenance staff, are expected to be delivered by 2020, Sikorsky adds, “once additional aircraft and training options are exercised”. Deliveries will run until 2029.

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The Connecticut-headquartered airframer was the only bidder on the USAF’s requirement, following a controversial tender process that appeared so tightly written as to preclude other manufacturers from making a bid.

Sikorsky says it plans to develop a variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk for the CRH programme, with mission systems provided by Lockheed Martin. Internal fuel capacity will be increased over the HH-60, allowing the type to achieve the required range.

Meanwhile, Mexico has been granted approval by the US government under the Foreign Military Sales process for the acquisition of five UH-60Ms, plus engines and other equipment, in a deal worth $225 million.

The nation will use the rotorcraft for anti-narcotics operations, according to the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency.