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Sikorsky pulls out of a $3.6 billion Polish helicopter tender

October 30, 2014 by · Comment
Filed under: Poland, Sikorsky, Syndicated Industry News 

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Manned and unmanned helicopters demonstrate joint operations with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

June 12, 2014 by · Comment
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Sikorsky, Aurora Flight Sciences to Develop VTOL X-Planes for DARPA

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Sikorsky, Aurora Flight Sciences to Develop VTOL X-Planes for DARPA

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Sikorsky Completes Initial Tests of First Rotor Blades for CH-53K Helicopter — Press Release

SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORPORATION ROTOR BLADESSTRATFORD, Conn., Oct. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Sikorsky Aircraft has successfully completed the initial phase of testing for the first-ever main and tail rotor blades manufactured for the U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53K heavy lift helicopter program. Designed specially to help meet the Marine Corps requirement to lift the aircraft’s maximum gross weight of 88,000 pounds, the all-composite blades are the largest and most technologically advanced ever produced by Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).

“These new blades are an important feature of the CH-53K helicopter’s ability to lift almost three times the payload compared to the CH-53E Super Stallion™ aircraft it will replace later this decade,” said Mike Torok Sikorsky’s CH-53K Program Vice President. “Advanced geometric shaping, high strength composite materials and a flaw tolerant design all come into play to provide unmatched performance, reliability, and survivability.”

At 35 feet span length, and almost three feet chord width, the CH-53K main rotor blade has 12 percent more surface area than the CH-53E blade. A 4th generation aerodynamic design developed by Sikorsky adds unique airfoils, twist and taper to the new blade so as to accommodate 71 percent greater power generated by the CH-53K aircraft’s three 7,500-shaft-horsepower GE38-1B engines.

Included in the span length is an advanced blade tip to improve hover performance, and a composite cuff attachment feature that will allow maintainers to quickly attach each of the seven CH-53K blades directly to an elastomerically-articulated titanium rotor head without the need for specialized tools or multiple redundant fasteners. When attached to the nearly nine-foot-diameter main rotor hub, the blade radius extends to 39.5 feet.

The four 10 ft. long CH-53K tail rotor blades have 15 percent more surface area compared to the same tail rotor blades on the CH-53E helicopter. On the CH-53K aircraft, the tail rotor blades collectively produce as much thrust as the main rotor blades on Sikorsky’s 11,000-pound S-76™ helicopter.

Both main rotor blades and tail rotor blades are now undergoing qualification testing at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Conn., headquarters. Tests completed to date include spinning of the blades on whirl towers to measure balance, and initial fatigue tests to determine structural strength. Blade qualification testing will continue over several years to include stress and fatigue tests, and additional whirl tower testing to validate aerodynamic stability, tip deflection, and rotational twist along each blade’s length.

This first set of blades will be attached to the CH-53K Ground Test Vehicle at Sikorsky’s Developmental Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Marine Corps pilots and Sikorsky test engineers will spin the blades on the GTV as part of the Shakedown Light-Off, a term used to describe the test of engines, transmissions, and blades running together for the first time.

Sikorsky began fabricating composite rotor blades in the early 1970s for the UH-60 BLACK HAWK helicopter. Composite blades made by Sikorsky are flaw tolerant to ensure that any small anomalies present in the blade during its initial fabrication will not grow into larger problematic anomalies.

The 4th generation blade design is part of a long chain of Sikorsky rotor systems innovations and investment to improve blade aerodynamics.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Conn., is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture, and service. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Conn., provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.

SOURCE Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC)

Photo courtesy of SAC

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Sikorsky, Boeing Team Introduces the SB>1 Defiant

October 22, 2013 by · Comment
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Sikorsky, Boeing Team Introduces the SB>1 Defiant

October 22, 2013 by · Comment
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Australian MH-60R completes first flight

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Sikorsky, Boeing Propose X2 Rotorcraft for the US Army Medium Helicopter Tech Demo

March 6, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: Boeing, Sikorsky, Syndicated Industry News 
This artist's rendering depicts a Sikorsky-Boeing JMR-FVL concept aircraft with counter-rotating co-axial main rotors and a pusher propeller based on Sikorsky's X2® Technology rotorcraft design. The future rotorcraft will deliver significant improvements in speed, combat radius and hover performance for the Army's next-generation utility and attack helicopter fleets. Photo: BoeingSikorsky Aircraft Corp., and Boeing have signed a teaming agreement on Jan. 13, to submit a joint proposal in response to the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate solicitation for the Army's Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator (TD) Phase 1 program.

Air Force Cost Goals Restrict Competition for New Rescue Helicopter

The U.S. Air Force is once again trying to attempt to buy a new aircraft to replace their MH-60 rescue helicopter fleet from the Eighties. The original CSAR-X program faltered twice earlier this century due to protests. Boeing (BA) had one the last contest with a version of the CH-47 but after protests from the losing bidders it was decided to start over.

The current Combat Rescue Helicopter program had put out a RFP for new proposals due in January. The goal is to buy just over 100 aircraft at a cost of $6.4 billion.

Unfortunately it was announced this past week that the only company interested in bidding on the contract is Sikosrky, part of United Technologies (UTX), teamed with Lockheed Martin (LMT). Sikorsky made the current HH-60 fleet. Other potential bidders including Augusta Westland, Eurocopter, Bell and Boeing believe that the cost goals will be too hard to meet for their products. Some have basically said the contract requirements were written in such as way so only a version of the UH-60 Black Hawk could meet them.

The Pentagon is obviously trying to reduce cost but at also at the same time promoting competition. Sometimes, as here, the two things don’t always work together as to attract bidders there must be some profit in it for them.

The Air Force has struggled with large acquisitions for a few years now. The new aerial tanker, KC-X, took 3 tries before Boeing won. The CSAR-X has already been discussed. They are currently redoing the Light Air Support aircraft contest after Embraer and Sierra Nevada’s win of the original contract was overturned on protest.

Whether they want to continue the current contest with limited bidders or try to re-do the requirements to attract more will be the next decision. They could just wait and see if more then one bid in January as originally intended.

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Contenders for New Presidential Helicopter Lining Up

Earlier this century the Pentagon started a program managed by the Navy and Marine Corps to replace the existing helicopters used to transport the President. Currently a mix of Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), made VH-3 and VH-60 aircraft are used. Some of them are now over 40 years old. It was felt that a new system was needed that was more efficient, capable and equipped with modern communication equipment. This was the VH-71 program.

The VH-71 planned to use an aircraft from Augusta Westland modified by prime contractor Lockheed Martin (LMT). The program was to proceed in two stages with a few aircraft bought early to test and integrate modifications. This proceeded with several aircraft purchased and modified. The problems arose as the requirements for the second effort changed considerably over time leading to schedule and cost growth. By 2009 the program was several billion dollars over budget and was cancelled by the Obama Administration as part of their defense reforms.

A draft RFP was released this week for the new program. It plans to save money and manage schedule by requiring the use of an existing, in production aircraft which will be modified. It is requesting that the bidders plan to minimize changes to expensive parts of the aircraft such as the power train, transmission, structure and rotor system. A communication system is being developed separately that will be integrated onto the new aircraft.

The VH-71 suffered as the requirements meant new major systems had to be developed and integrated to meet power, range and hovering capability requirements. The RFP is for 23 aircraft at a cost of just under $1 billion with the first ones entering service in 2020.

Currently teams made up of Sikorsky and Lockheed and Augusta Westland and Northrop Grumman (NOC) are interested. Boeing (BA) may propose after doing analysis as to whether their large CH-47 or V-22 tilt rotor aircraft may meet the requirements.

The VXX program is aggressive in that it hopes to contain cost, schedule and technical creep. As the VH-71 program indicated it may be hard to do this. With the expected defense cuts coming up the contract is very attractive not only due to its size but also the prestige. As with other large aviation programs the winner may also expect several decades worth of support contracts which could be worth billions.

Photo from dailymatador’s flickr photostream.

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Trying Again for the U.S. Air Force as Request for Proposals Released for New Rescue Helicopter

The U.S. Air Force has had its struggles over the last decades conducting competitions for new aircraft. The KC-X tanker program took 3 tries before Boeing (BA) ended up the winner with their modified 767 aircraft. Another program was a new Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) helicopter to replacing aging MH-60 helicopters originally built by Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX).

That program saw two attempts which ended up going nowhere due to protests and reviews. The last one in 2008 did see Boeing win the contest with a version of the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter but after the GAO upheld protests by the losers, Sikorsky and Augusta Westland, the Air Force decided not to pursue a 3rd attempt at that time.

Now reportedly a Request for Proposals for a new program, Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH), was put out recently. This gives vendors 90 days to submit their proposals with source selection planned for most of next year and a contract award in late Fiscal Year 2013.

The program is for 112 aircraft and has a cost goal of under $6.8 billion.

Potential bidders will include Boeing, Sikorsky, Augusta Westland, and presumably EADS North America could participate with a Eurocopter aircraft.

Based on past history with recent Air Force acquisitions the service will have to do a very thorough and documented source selection process as a protest is very likely due to the upcoming budgetary situations and lack of new helicopter programs.

The FedBizOpps page for this procurement may be found here.

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FMS of Apache to Persian Gulf States to Grow

The United States has over the last decades sold billions to the various Gulf States to counter threats first from Iraq and now Iran. This has included increasingly sophisticated systems such as the PATRIOT and THAAD missile defense systems, C-17 transports and large amounts of helicopters. One aircraft that has proven popular is the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter made by Boeing (BA).

This is in use with countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, the U.A.E. and others. Now it is being reported that Qatar has made a request for up to 24 of the helicopters. The deal if fully executed would be worth about $3 billion. This includes not only the new aircraft but also spares, support equipment, training and weaponry.

Qatar has also proposed buying Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. made by United Technology’s (UTX) Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

The addition of the Apache increases commonality with the U.S. military as well as providing significant capability for the Qatar military. These aircraft have seen heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan providing fire support for ground troops as well as carrying out strike missions.

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UTC Names Mick Maurer as President, Sikorsky Aircraft; Jeffrey P. Pino to Retire — Press Release

HARTFORD, Conn., May 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) today announced the appointment of Mick Maurer as President of its Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. subsidiary, effective July 1. Maurer will report to UTC Chairman & Chief Executive Louis Chenevert, succeeding Jeffrey P. Pino, who will retire July 1. To ensure a seamless succession, Pino and Maurer will collaborate closely during the next two months, after which Pino will serve as a consultant to Sikorsky.

Maurer joined UTC in 1989 at the corporation’s Otis Elevator Co. unit, where he worked in positions of increasing responsibility until 2000, when he joined Sikorsky as Vice President, Enterprise Planning & Development. Most recently, Maurer served as President of the Sikorsky Military Systems unit, responsible for U.S. and International Military program and product line management, customer relationships and military aircraft delivery. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a master’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University.

“I am confident that under Mick’s leadership, Sikorsky will continue to deliver unmatched value to customers and UTC shareholders,” Chenevert said. “Mick is exceptionally well qualified to lead Sikorsky, given his demonstrated leadership capabilities, strong customer relationships and deep industry knowledge.”

Pino is completing a career in aerospace that spans nearly four decades. He is a retired Master Army Aviator and served in the U.S. Army for 26 years in the active duty, Guard and Reserve components. Prior to joining Sikorsky in 2002, he spent 17 years with Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit.

Pino became Sikorsky’s president in 2006 after previously serving as the company’s Senior Vice President for corporate strategy, marketing and commercial programs. During his years at Sikorsky, the company achieved significant growth, increased productivity and expanded margins, while continuing to invest in game-changing technology.

“Jeff Pino has done a remarkable job leading Sikorsky,” Chenevert said. “Under his leadership, Sikorsky has become more competitive while doubling its production rates to become the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer, and has expanded into new markets with the S-70i international version of the iconic BLACK HAWK helicopter.

“Jeff has positioned Sikorsky well for the future, overseeing the successful development of the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter and Sikorsky’s X2 technology, which was recognized with the 2010 Collier Trophy and is now being incorporated into the S-97 RAIDER,” Chenevert said. “We congratulate Jeff on an outstanding career and wish him all the best in retirement.”

United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries. For more information, visit www.utc.com.

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Telephonics to Make Radars for Navy Helicopters

The Navy recently awarded Lockheed Martin (LMT) a contract to provide avionics and instruments for their Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), made MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters. Lockheed in turn has awarded Telephonics a contract to build a radar for the aircraft.

The AN/APS-153 radar performs surface search functions to locate and identify submarine periscopes. The total value of the contract for 160 radars is about $330 million.

The MH-60R is designed to perform a variety of missions and be based on carriers, destroyers and other U.S. and Allied ships. It replaces the previously used SH-60, SH-2 and SH-3 helicopters previously used for ship based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

The contract also illustrates how expensive not only the base aircraft is but also the sub-systems hat go into it. Capability and performance is expensive.

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Lockheed Martin to Supply Navy Helicopter Cockpits

The U.S Navy’s standard helicopter is versions of the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk made by Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX). They operate the MH-60R and MH-60S for different missions including anti-submarine warfare, surveillance, cargo and passenger transfer as well as attack. While the MH-60 and SH-60 are similar to the UH-60 the Navy installs its own unique equipment and electronics.

This includes a digital cockpit made by Lockheed Martin (LMT) for both models of helicopter. As such this week the Navy signed a contract with Lockheed to provide over 200 cockpits and other mission equipment for their MH-60 aircraft. The total value of the contract for 224 sets is just over $1 billion.

Military aircraft are expensive and this contract illustrates one of the reasons why. The cost of the avionics, radios and other systems is quite substantial. Add this to the cost of the airframe, engines, defensive systems and weapons the total become quite high.

This contract is a multi-year one which allows the Navy to place orders across 5 years rather then the normal one year contract. The Black Hawk one is as well. This is normally done with mature systems in full rate production and allows better use of economies of scale and a static supplier base.

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CH-53K Helicopter Systems Engineering Team Receives DoD Top 5 Programs Award — Press Release

CH-53K Helicopter Systems Engineering Team Receives DoD Top 5 Programs Award

STRATFORD, Conn., Oct. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The CH-53K Helicopter Systems Engineering Team won the Department of Defense Systems Engineering Top 5 Programs Award today at the annual NDIA Systems Engineering Conference Award Luncheon in San Diego, Calif.

The National Defense Industry Association presented the prestigious award to the CH-53K Helicopter Systems Engineering Team, consisting of both Naval Air Systems Command and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation engineers, in recognition of excellence in the application of systems engineering practices resulting in highly successful DoD programs, as exemplified by their 2010 performance.

“The evaluation team, made up of senior individuals from across the Department of Defense, felt that the CH-53K program’s efforts are clearly in keeping with the award’s intent to honor programs who ‘demonstrate successful implementation of systems engineering best practices resulting in program success,'” said Col. Donald W. Robbins, Chairman of the Top 5 Awards Evaluation Team.

“The CH-53K Systems Engineering Team worked hard over the past few years and we are seeing the benefits of a disciplined and systematic approach,” said Col. Robert Pridgen, USMC, H-53 Heavy Lift program manager. “The Systems Engineering Team set the foundation for us to deliver a marinized, heavy-lifting helicopter that meets the future war fighting requirements of the Marine Corps, sustains the expeditionary capabilities and is supportable, maintainable and reliable throughout its entire lifecycle.”

David Zack, Sikorsky’s CH-53K Helicopter Program Manager, said the recognition is extremely rewarding and validates the approach taken by the CH-53K Systems Engineering Team, including its government partners as well as its 150 industry partners, to integrate systems engineering process and principles from the program’s inception.

“It is an honor for the CH-53K helicopter program to be recognized with this award, particularly because it is the system engineering approach that has successfully established the key processes and procedures throughout each stage of the program,” Zack said. “These principles are deeply rooted within the joint Sikorsky/Navy integrated product teams. This close collaboration continues to create a solid foundation as the program moves forward and a balanced approach in bringing the best capability to the customer at the right cost.”

Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President and Chief Engineer for Marine Corps Programs, noted that focusing on requirements stability, functional and physical system integration, and risk management is essential to success. “We took lessons learned from other programs and existing system engineering processes and established an integrated program approach that has proven successful,” Torok said.

The CH-53K Helicopter Ground Test Vehicle, the first of five prototype aircraft to be built, is currently being built at Sikorsky’s Florida Assembly and Flight Operations facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The CH-53K heavy lift helicopter will replace the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter. First flight is expected to occur during fiscal year 2014.

The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION™ helicopter, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under “high hot” ambient conditions. The CH-53E helicopter is currently the largest, most powerful marinized helicopter in the world. It is deployed from Marine Corps amphibious assault ships to transport personnel and equipment and to carry external (sling) cargo loads.

The CH-53K helicopter’s maximum gross weight (MGW) with internal loads is 74,000 pounds compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E aircraft. The CH-53K’s MGW with external loads is 88,000 pounds as compared to 73,500 for the CH-53E helicopter.

Features of the CH-53K helicopter include: a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Conn., is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture, and service. It is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX). United Technologies Corp. is based in Hartford, Conn., and provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.

This press release contains forward-looking statements concerning potential production and sale of helicopters. Actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to changes in government procurement priorities and practices, budget plans or availability of funding or in the number of aircraft to be built; challenges in the design, development, production and support of advanced technologies; as well as other risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to those detailed from time to time in United Technologies Corporation’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

SOURCE Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

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Canada Makes Big Investments In Its Defense, U.S. Industry To Benefit

Since 9/11 Canada has been one of the most supportive allies of the United States committing troops multiple times to Afghanistan. They have suffered over 150 military casualties and four civilian ones in that fighting. The Canadian government has also made efforts to modernize and equip their forces with better equipment to aid in their operations such as Boeing’s (BA) CH-47 heavy lift helicopters and Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) C-130J transport aircraft.

At the same time both the Liberal and Conservative Party government’s that have been in power since 2001 have planned to improve the nation’s basic armed forces. One of their responses to the world economic downturn since 2008 has been to spend targeted funds on selected military projects to aid the economy and counter unemployment. This has included investments in infrastructure and training capabilities. Canada has benefited from these contracts even when they award them to foreign suppliers, primarily the big U.S. defense contractors, because they have a 100% offset requirement.

This means that the foreign company must invest an amount equal to 100% of the value of the contract in the Canadian economy. This means they may hire Canadian suppliers for parts or maintenance or just do it in a completely unrelated part of the economy. For example Sikorsky Aircraft, part of United Technologies (UTX), sold helicopters to upgrade Canada Navy’s anti-submarine, search and rescue and surveillance capability. The program has seen delays and cost growth and Canada adjusted it by accepting more offsets from UTX.

In this vein the country announced two major contracts this week to continue their improvement of their military. The first is a major new armored vehicle upgrade contract that will go to General Dynamics Land Systems (GD). GD has been building wheeled military vehicles for Canada and the U.S. for several years. This $1 billion contract will allow the current LAV III fleet of vehicles to remain in service for another 20 years by improving armor, weapons as well as survivability against the IED and mine threat. GD is an American company and the contract will help it weather cuts in the U.S. defense budget but it will also help Canada as most of the work will be done in that country and it will employ significant amounts of domestic workers.

Also this week the Canadian government announced the results of a contest among its domestic shipbuilders for contracts to construct a new fleet of large naval combatants and patrol ships. This contract is worth over $32 billion total and was awarded to two shipyards, Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and Seaspan Marine Corp. Irving will build up to 15 warships and 6 patrol craft while Seaspan 8 support vessels such as icebreakers.

While the contract is a huge deal for the nation’s shipbuilders it will have spill over effects into the U.S. Most of the weapons and combat systems will have to be provided by U.S. defense contractors since Canada tends to use their guns and missiles. There is a chance that radar will come from Europe as it has in the past. Either way this is win-win for Canada as they recipients of the sub-contracts will have to invest to meet the offset requirements. This means that billions of dollars will flow back into the Canadian economy one way or another.

Canada has been very proactive over the last decade in their military spending. This has meant not only benefits for their economy but also the U.S. and other countries. There offset policy allows money spent on non-domestic defense goods to grow their economy as well. The U.S. and some European defense contractors also gain as they provide some key components and systems not available on the domestic Canadian market. Canada is able to take advantage of this to gain state-of-the-art, modern equipment without having to build up their defense industry.

Article first published as Canada Makes Big Investments In Its Defense, U.S. Industry To Benefit on Technorati.

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U.S. Army Awards JMR Study Contracts

Currently the U.S. Army, Navy and many Allied nations rely on the Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for the medium lift mission. The Blackhawk entered service in the late Seventies as a replacement for the venerable UH-1 Huey aircraft. Since 9/11 it has been heavily used in Iraq and Afghanistan flying several hundred thousand flight hours.

The Army is working on a long range replacement program for the Blackhawk called Joint Multi Role (JMR). This will be an aircraft that not only will take on the UH-60 missions but may also form the basis for a new attack or scout helicopter like the UH-1 did with the AH-1 Cobra.

As part of this program the Army went ahead and awarded contracts to four different companies to conduct long term research and design studies for the future JMR.

Interestingly enough one of the contracts was awarded to AVX Aircraft of Texas. This is a new company started by mainly former Bell employees that has produced an interesting concept for the Army’s new scout helicopter the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS).

The AAS is a follow on to the cancelled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) which had been started as the Bell ARH-70 Arapahoe to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior but was cancelled in 2008 due to cost and schedule issues. AVX has come up with a plan to fit the OH-58 with two rotors and ducted fans that push it to increase speed, range and payload. Similar concepts could be used to meet the JMR requirements.

The other contracts went to the more traditional Boeing (BA), Sikorsky, and Bell, part of Textron (TXT). These all have current military aircraft flying and they may offer more traditional ideas for the new aircraft. Boeing does currently make the V-22 for the Marines and Air Force which could be used as a tilt rotor basis for a new medium lift system.

The JMR when it is ready for competition would be a major contract as it may be expected to last 30-40 years and see production quantities of several hundred. Also if it did enter U.S. service it might enjoy good Foreign Military Sales (FMS) similar to the Blackhawk which could mean billions in revenue for the ultimate provider of the aircraft.

Unfortunately in the current budget situation the program probably will not move fast and it might be several years for the new system to take shape. This means that the Army and other users will soldier on with the UH-60.

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Labor Woes Add to Oshkosh’s Struggles

Further Update – It has been announced the Union has accepted the latest offer from the company and a new five year contract has been signed.

Update – The Union voted on Saturday the 8th on an updated proposal from the company and again turned down the offer. The Union has offered to continue negotiations.

Oshkosh Corp. (OSK) is one of a few, recent stories of success where a company is able to expand its business into defense from its more traditional lines of work. Oshkosh is traditionally a manufacturer of construction and emergency vehicles but was able to win two major defense contracts for support vehicles in the last five years. These have generated a great deal of revenue and some profit for the Wisconsin company when its traditional work was declining due to the global economic downturn.

Oshkosh was able to win the production contract for the U.S. Army’s standard truck, the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV), as well as a new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) for Afghanistan called the MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). This was designed to be lighter and more maneuverable for use in Afghanistan’s rougher terrain with its limited roads.

The MRAP contract, though, is winding down as the need for the vehicles declines. The U.S. is planning on leaving both Iraq and Afghanistan in the next few years and is struggling with fitting the MRAP, which is primarily a heavily armored bus, into its tactical Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E). If the next war includes a different threat then the role of the MRAP will be limited. This means that Oshkosh needs to find new customers or new work for their rapidly built up production capability for the MRAP.

The winning of the FMTV contract from BAE Systems (BAE:LSE) who had purchased the company that had that work for over twenty years was driven by price. Oshkosh bid very aggressively and hoped to make money off of modifications and other work related to the vehicles. Even though the Army and Marine Corps are buying thousands of those vehicles the margin on them is very low.

These two issues have combined to limit Oshkosh’s profit. The company is bidding on Canada’s new contract for an armored vehicle to help its situation but budgetary pressures will probably reduce its options for new contracts and new systems.

Now Oshkosh faces labor issues. Unlike BAE’s Sealy, TX workforce its is unionized. There current contract expired last Friday and the new one was voted down by the United Autoworker’s Union (UAW). As with many current labor negotiations healthcare costs and other issues remain the primary areas of disagreement.

Right now the union workers are not on strike and Oshkosh has not locked them out and the two sides met this weekend for more discussion. If the problems are not resolved in the near term though either could happen disrupting production for the military and affecting Oshkosh’s revenue.

Strikes are uncommon in the defense world as few major contractors are unionized. Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), had an ugly strike about six years ago that caused issues with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter production and took several months to recover from. Oshkosh is not facing that situation but it does add pressure to the company as they are trying to negotiate limited cost growth to maximize the profit from their products.

The next few months could be critical to the company’s defense prospects as the opportunities for new contracts in the U.S. are limited and there may be cuts to existing ones if there is a big decline in defense spending. This means it would be best for the union and the company to resolve their issues quickly and avoid a long term conflict.

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Does Reports of United Technologies Acquisition Herald Start of Major Defense M&A?

Update — On 22 September United Technologies released a press release stating their intent to acquire Goodrich for an estimated price of $18.4 billion. This would be the largest defense and aerospace related acquisition in many years. The transaction will still take several months as it goes through regulatory review. The CEO of United Technologies stated “Goodrich delivers on all of our acquisition criteria. It is strategic to our core, has great technology and people, and strengthens our position in growth markets.”

Late last week various reports began to arise the United Technologies Corp. (UTX), a large and diverse company that among its products makes military helicopters and jet engines, was interested in acquiring either Goodrich Corp. (GR) or Rockwell Collins (COL). Both of these companies make aerospace components for military and commercial uses.

The cost of the deal would be quite high compared to other recent defense M&A. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 billion for Goodrich requiring United Technologies to borrow a large amount of the necessary capital. Last year Goodrich’s earnings were around $7 billion while United Technologies’ sales were about $54 billion. Rockwell’s most recent quarter showed $1.19 billion in sales.

All three companies make major components for civil and military aviation so they synergy of the acquisition is there. They also all have significant business with the U.S. Department of Defense and other militaries across the world. The move would also fit in with how United Technologies is organized as it keeps strict lines of business under separate former corporations such as Sikorsky Aircraft, Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand. Moving another company into the group would not be difficult.

To this point there have been some large M&A moves this year by large defense contractors. Both General Dynamics (GD) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) have acquired health technology companies recently with the GD move coming in at close to $1 billion. Northrop Grumman (NOC) also spun off their shipbuilding arm into a new company called Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) rather then sell it but it still could be a target for acquisition.

This move by United Technologies though is much larger and seems to herald a return to the Nineties when medium and even large defense contractors were merged and acquired. This was due to the lack of demand from the U.S. compared to the decade previously and it is expected that U.S. defense spending will decline in the near future due to deficit issues and the reduction in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Senate Appropriations Committee in their mark-up of 2012 spending froze it at 2011 levels which is a cut when compared to what the Administration requested of about $26 billion.

The acquisition also works well for United Technologies as both companies mentioned have a significant part of the civil aviation industry as it does itself. This will allow expansion there that would offset any decline in defense sales.

If this acquisition goes through it might start a chain of similar moves as defense contractors begin to adjust to the new market and parts are jettisoned or added. ITT Corporation just broke off its former defense business into a new company called ITT Exelis. This might be a target for acquisition as it should be similar to the $7 billion in price for Goodrich.

If the United Technologies deal does happen it might be what the defense industry needs to push companies to make decisions about larger M&A that could lead to market contraction similar to the Nineties. Although the Defense Department has made clear that they do not want any of the larger defense contractors merging with each other.

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Australia to Buy MH-60R Helicoptes from Lockheed and Sikorsky

The Australian Navy has selected a version of the MH-60R helicopter used by the U.S. Navy to equip its ships. The allied country plans to purchase at least twenty-four of the aircraft. This is the first sale of the aircraft overseas. The contract is estimated at around $3 billion. The MH-60R will be used to replace existing Sikorsky S-70B SeaHawks.

Built by Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), and Lockheed Martin (LMT)The MH-60R is the latest variant of the H-60 family developed for the U.S. Navy combining the missions of the SH-60B and the SH-60F. Originally designed for the ship based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) to replace the SH-2 and SH-3 helicopters the missions of the H-60 have been expanded to include anti-ship, supply and personnel transport as well as communications relay. It has also been used to retire the older CH-46 helicopters from Boeing (BA) used for vertical replenishment.

The MH-60R is in full rate production and over seventy have been delivered to the U.S. Navy since 2006. This is the first Foreign Military Sale (FMS) for the system. This is the second large foreign contract for Sikorsky in recent weeks as earlier this spring Turkey announced that it would buy S-70 versions of the BlackHawk for its utility mission in a deal worth initially $3.5 billion.

Photo from jonworth’s Flickr photostream.

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Turkey Buys Sikorsky

Foreign countries wanting to acquire United States weapon systems or technology have different avenues available to them. They may do a strait Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case where they contract through the U.S. Department of Defense with suppliers to provide the same or similar equipment that the U.S. is buying. Another option is to directly contract with a company to get a unique piece of equipment that in some cases has never been used by the U.S. military. Turkey has chosen this route with the announcement that they will buy over one hundred S-70 Black Hawk aircraft from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC). SAC is a subsidiary of United Technologies (UTX) and is based in Connecticut.

The S-70 is the commercial market version of the UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft which is the core medium lift system for the U.S. Army while also being used by the Navy, Air Force and other U.S. government agencies. The Black Hawk has also seen robust FMS sales across the globe including users like Australia, various Gulf States and most recently Sweden.

Turkey’s contract is initially valued at about $3.5 billion. Like many Turkish defense programs the aircraft will have substantial portions of it built in Turkey in this case by Tusas Aerospace Industries. This will allow rapid expansion of the contract if Turkey decides as well as an option for them to make the aircraft for foreign sales themselves. SAC will provide parts, assemblies and technical assistance to help the Turkish production and assembly facility.

The S-70 has seen some sales to other countries as well as U.S. agencies. The T-70 will be equipped with specific Turkish equipment and modifications most likely to include the radio suite, armament and other equipment. By doing it this way Turkey does not necessarily limit itself to equipment that has been used on the UH-60 and qualified by the American government. At the same time, though, they lose some of the efficiencies of the large U.S. production contract with SAC.

Italy’s Augusta Westland, part of Finnemechanica (FNC:MI) , was also bidding on this contract.

Photo form David Jackmason’s flickr photostream.

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Lockheed Workers Agree to New Contract Will Aid in Lowering Costs for Company

Most people do not realize that the large defense contractors in the United States have a unionized workforce. It is more then just their manufacturing related employees but often includes engineers and support staff as well. Boeing (BA), Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) who make aircraft and ships especially have this as one of their considerations because it does effect costs.

One of the advantages that EADS North America (EADS:P) was going to offer with their tanker program was a non-unionized workforce in Alabama that should have been a lower cost then Boeing’s unionized one in Washington state. Boeing though was able to get their costs in line and propose a cheaper solution to the KC-X mission.

While labor relations in the defense industry have tended to be fairly stable there have been strikes in the recent past. Both Sikorsky (UTX) and Boeing faced labor stoppages that did have some effect on their production of aircraft for the military and other defense customers. As with many recent contract negotiations the issues had more to do with benefits and health care costs rather then wages and work rules.

Now Lockheed Martin’s workers represented by the machinists union have signed a new deal rather then go on strike as recommended by the union. These workers are primarily in Georgia and are involved in C-130 production and other work. The major dispute in this negotiation was the company’s plan to have new employees get a much less generous pension plan then existing ones.

Lockheed’s goal was to reduce their costs and with most companies their labor is their biggest expense. They face extreme pressure from the Defense Department to control costs on the F-35 program and this type of contract with a sizable portion of their workforce will aid them in doing that. The problem though is that whether in the long run the company can reduce benefits and maintain their experienced, effective workforce who are key to production of systems on time and to meet the military’s needs.

Photo from Beige Alert’s flickr photostream.

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Sikorsky Adds Potential Australian Supplier to Support Naval Helicopter Bid

Sikorsky, a United Technologies Company (UTX), has signed a MOU with Australian materials company Quickstep Holdings Limited (QHL:ASX) so that it may begin providing support to the American helicopter manufacturer. The MOU will allow Quickstep to be a supplier to Sikorsky global supply chain and will also allow development of Quickstep manufacturing technology in support of Sikorsky.

The deal helps supports Sikorsky bid for a new helicopter for the Australian Navy. Sikorsky has submitted a proposal based on a version of the MH-60R SeaHawk that they currently provide to the U.S. Navy.

If Sikorsky does win the contract which may be awarded before the end of this year having an Australian partner only helps as it means some of the contract cost remains in Australia. Some nations require a percentage of any new contract to be invested in their economy by the foreign winner. These offsets vary by government but right now Australia does not have such a policy. In some places such as India there large offset requirement has been a barrier for Western companies especially to sell to them and as part of their plans to modernize their military they have had to adjust them.

It only makes good business sense for a company to include domestic ones in support of their programs. It makes the government feel better that some of the money spent on the system remains in their economy. All of the teams bidding on the new armored vehicle for Australia for instance have teamed with a domestic provider in a move to aid their proposals.

Sikorsky will also gain by having a local supplier in Asia that will support their other efforts to win business including selling commercial products. This might speed up replacement parts and repairs while also reducing their costs meaning a better price for their customers. It does mean though less work in the long run for their U.S. support contractors and that consideration must balance any efforts to expand overseas.

Photo from Stephen Edmonds’ flickr photostream.

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