With the US Air Force’s UH-1N recapitalisation programme heating up, Sikorsky announced its plans to bid the HH-60U Black Hawk for the Huey replacement.

Sikorsky and its parent company, Lockheed Martin, would add 84 HH-60Us to the USAF’s existing inventory of three U-model Black Hawks, according to a 28 February Sikorsky press release.

“The Air Force previously assigned the HH-60U designation to three UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft, adding among other modifications an electro-optical sensor and a rescue hoist,” the release states. “Air Force pilots and special mission aviators began flying the HH-60U in 2011.”

US lawmakers had pushed the USAF to participate in the US Army’s block buy of M-model aircraft, arguing it could save money on the recapitalisation, but the air force ultimately backed out of the block buy strategy.

Sikorsky is appealing to the air force with its family of systems, noting the HH-60U shares 85 percent commonality with the USAF’s incoming fleet of HH-60W combat rescue helicopters that will replace the aging HH-60G. The service is investing $9.8 billion in the combat rescue acquisition programme.

As it stands, the HH-60U would meet the air force’s nine troop requirement. That threshold may not change, but other requirements could evolve as the air force talks with industry. The USAF delayed its final request for proposals for the Huey replacement after industry contractors told the service their off-the-shelf solutions would not meet all of the proposed requirements. Before the announcement, some helicopter manufacturers had complained that the current requirements restricted the replacement to Sikorsky’s Black Hawk offering.

Last week, USAF chief Gen David Goldfein reiterated that the service delayed the RFP following a robust dialogue with industry.

“This delay in the UH-1 replacement is actually based on the dialogue we’re having with industry and what they’re saying they can produce based on our RFP,” he says. “We want to make sure when the RFP hits the streets it’s right.”

Source: FlightGlobal.com