Sikorsky is pressing the Department of Defense (DoD) to double production of UH-60L Black Hawks to meet an Army National Guard requirement for 323 helicopters, which, if combined with the US Navy's planned buy of 237 CH-60S, could generate savings of $560 million.

Sikorsky president, Dean Borgman, in a letter to US deputy secretary of defence Rudy de Leon, claims the "DoD can save approximately $1 million per H-60," over the course of the next planned multi-year buy. This hinges on a contract for "at least 36 H-60s per year compared to the current 18".

The letter and accompanying documentation, copies of which were obtained by Flight International, estimates that a "minimum rate" of 36 machines per year would save the DoD $216 million over the next 2002-07 multi-year purchase. This more than doubles if all 560 helicopters required by the National Guard and Navy are procured.

The DoD is reviewing funding for 2002, and Congress has authorised an annual procurement of 10 UH-60Ls for the Army National Guard over the following five years. The USN plans to buy 117 new CH-60s utility helicopters over the same period, starting with 14 in 2002, but this still falls short of Sikorsky's minimum number.

The National Guard Association has also written to De Leon urging that the planned procurement rate of UH-60Ls be doubled to 20 to meet the army's aviation modernisation needs and replace its Bell UH-1s. "The current proposed procurement rate of 10 UH-60Ls per year does not modernise the States aviation units fast enough to ensure tactical readiness of Army National Guard Aviation," says the association.

Given the pending US elections, Sikorsky's documentation notes that "the Army National Guard is the primary beneficiary of the initiative and plays heavily in the political area."

Source: Flight International