The US Air Force's combat rescue helicopter programme is moving forward.
The service announces on 4 March that it intends to issue a contract by the end of June to Sikorsky for the 14-year, $7 billion programme, which calls for up to 112 aircraft.
Sikorsky, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, was the only company to bid on the project with its proposed CRH-60, a modified version of its UH-60M Black Hawk.
Rendering of Sikorsky's CRH-60 combat rescue helicopter. Sikorsky.
The USAF says it will move $430 million from other programmes to the CRH programme though fiscal year 2019 due to "the criticality" of the combat rescue mission.
The project also received an injection of more than $300 million in the fiscal year 2014 budget.
The service warns, however, that the programme may need to be "reevaluated" should additional defense budget cuts take effect in fiscal year 2016.
"The competitive price and the funding provided by Congress will allow us to award the CRH contract, but we could still face significant challenges to keeping this effort on track," says USAF secretary Deborah Lee James in a statement. "We will need to work with Congress throughout 2015 budget deliberations."
The CRH is intended to replace the USAF's aging HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, which are also a Sikorsky product.
"Sikorsky and our teammate Lockheed Martin thank the USAF for enabling us to build a modern and affordable combat rescue helicopter that will replace the service’s rapidly aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet," says Sikorsky in a statement. "We look forward to working with the USAF to deliver CRH-60 aircraft in the prescribed timeframe."