Sikorsky has been given the green light by its directors to launch the S-92 Helibus into full-scale production, ahead of expected requests from Canada and the Nordic bloc for a potentially large number of military helicopters.

Production approval was revealed by Sikorsky president Dean Borgman while visiting the Canadian Forces airbase at Shearwater. The first production S-92 is due for delivery in April 2002, although it is unclear if this will be a commercial or military version of the medium-size helicopter.

No formal announcement has been made and it is understood from sources that Sikorsky is delaying an official launch until it has finalised more commitments. The company has indicated that it has already secured some customers, but has given no details.

The primary driver behind the S-92 programme now appears to be the military market, with Sikorsky having accelerated completion of a utility-configured fourth development machine. Borgman's surprise revelation comes just ahead of an anticipated end-of-year Canadian statement of requirement for a new maritime patrol helicopter.

Sikorsky has teamed with Lockheed Martin to compete for the order, but faces strong competition from EH Industries, partnered with Boeing, offering the EH101 and the Eurocopter Cougar Mk.II/III. EHI is due to deliver the first of 15 EH101 Cormorant search-and-rescue (SAR) versions to Canada in October 2000. The naval requirement is for 32 machines to replace the Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King.

The Stratford-based manufacturer is also promoting the S-92 for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme. A request for quotations is due to be released in November for up to 90 anti-submarine warfare, SAR and transport helicopters for Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (Flight International, 1-7 September).

Sikorsky is due to submit a proposal to Portugal by the end of October for between eight and 12 helicopters for the air force and fishery protection. A final selection is to be made by early next year. Other international requirements include new royal flight helicopters for Thailand.

Source: Flight International