By Idrees Ali
The pending takeover of United Technologies Corp’s Sikorsky Aircraft by Lockheed Martin Corp will not affect prototype work on an aircraft that will replace thousands of helicopters, U.S. Army acquisitions chief Heidi Shyu said on Tuesday.
Last year one team from Boeing Co and Sikorsky and one team from Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter were selected to build models of a multi-role vertical-lift aircraft as a part of the U.S. Army’s plan, the JMR technology demonstrator program, to replace aging helicopters. The future vertical life aircraft will replace up to 4,000 medium class UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters built by Sikorsky and Boeing’s Apache attack helicopter.
“No, it doesn’t change it because I think what is important is you’ve got the Boeing-Sikorsky team competing against Bell,” Shyu told reporters at the annual Association of United States Army conference in Washington. “As far I know there’s two separate teams,” Shyu said. She said first flight tests were expected in 2017 and would define requirements for the future vertical lift aircraft.
The pending Lockheed-Sikorsky deal, worth more than $8 billion, could be important because Lockheed is providing parts for Bell’s V-280 Valor under the demonstrator program. Bell is the prime contractor on the V-280 Valor but has teamed up with 11 other companies for parts. Pentagon arms buyer Frank Kendall has previously said that mergers were increasing the leverage companies have with the U.S. Department of Defense.
A representative from Bell said the agreement with Lockheed on the demonstrator had been amended to clarify that they would stay on track after the Lockheed-Sikorsky deal. “I mean the point is it’s not an insignificant event (Lockheed-Sikorsky deal) but it’s not … sky is falling kind of event either,” said Keith Flail, Bell’s programs director for the demonstrator and vertical lift program.
A Sikorsky representative declined to comment on the deal and how it might affect the demonstrator program because the team had not been involved in merger discussions. “But we’re teams on the JMR medium in support of future vertical lift and we are committed to continue that,” said Douglas Shidler, the Sikorsky program director for the JMR technology demonstrator program.