Sikorsky Aircraft was awarded a U.S. Air Force contract on June 26 to develop new combat search and rescue helicopters. Sikorsky will develop a derivative of the UH-60M Black Hawk for the Air Force’s rescue mission.
The award of an estimated $1.28 billion Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract includes development and integration of the rescue mission systems; delivery of four Combat Rescue Helicopters; as well as seven aircrew and maintainer training systems. Initial training of Air Force aircrew and maintainers and five Combat Rescue Helicopters are also expected to be delivered by 2020, once additional aircraft and training options are exercised. This contract is the first step in the eventual production and fielding of up to 112 aircraft with a potential value of approximately $7.9 billion. Eventual production quantities would be determined year-by-year over the life of the program, based on funding allocations set by Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense acquisition priorities.
“We are honored that the Air Force has selected Sikorsky to develop and build the new Combat Rescue Helicopter,” said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. “Since 1943, Sikorsky has proudly provided the combat rescue helicopter platform to enable the Air Force to perform one of its most important and sacred missions – bringing our downed service members home safely. I’m tremendously pleased that we will continue to do so for years to come.”
The Air Force announced in 2010 that it would replace its aging HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. Sikorsky, joined by Lockheed Martin as the major subsystems supplier, offered a UH-60M derivative to replace the venerable Pave Hawk, also made by Sikorsky, as the Air Force’s new Combat Rescue Helicopter. The aircraft features increased internal fuel capability, compared with today’s HH-60G helicopter, thereby giving the CRH-60 the required range, while increasing its internal cabin space.
Like the UH-60M helicopter, the aircraft will feature T700-GE-701D engines, composite wide-chord main rotor blades, and fatigue- and corrosion-resistant machined aero-structures to sustain maneuverability at high density altitudes.
“We are proud to expand our long-standing relationship with the U.S. Air Force and Sikorsky, providing a new aircraft system capable of performing the vital personnel recovery missions, including combat rescue and casualty evacuation,” said Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) for the CRH requirement had been issued on October 19, 2012, with bids due in by January 3, 2013. After examining the RFP thoroughly, industry executives had unofficially stated the specification was so tight that it effectively favoured a variant of the Sikorsky Black Hawk and ruled out all other competitors.
Despite the lack of competition, Sikorsky, which is teamed with Lockheed Martin to provide the mission equipment for the CRH bid, still submitted a response to the RFP, becoming the only company to do so. Despite usually being reluctant to go with a sole-source bidder, the urgency of the requirement has led the USAF to accept the bid, after careful financial analysis of the offer, and decided to award the deal to Sikorsky. If all options are exercised, the total contract amount is estimated at $7.9 billion. Finally, after over 15 years of acquisition effort, the USAF is finally looking as though it will actually get its new CRH.
Sikorsky has produced more than 700 H-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. government and militaries worldwide, since production aircraft deliveries began in 2007.