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Army skips over Sikorsky on $1.3 billion Black Hawk replacement contract

V 280 Valor.jpg
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Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter in flight during an Autonomy Demo in 2019 / bellflight.com

Sikorsky Aircraft, the Stratford, Connecticut-based helicopter manufacturer, has lost out on a $1.3 billion contract to replace Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. Army.

Sikorsky has been a longtime manufacturer of helicopters for the Army since the 1970s, including the famous Black Hawk helicopters. The Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program was created in 2019 to develop a successor to the Black Hawk, which was first put into service in 1979.

This year, Sikorsky lost out on the Army’s $1.3 billion contract. Instead, the contract was awarded to Texas-based manufacturer Bell Textron, to produce their Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter as the new standard long range assault aircraft.

Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, said the Army is looking forward to working with Bell Textron to produce and utilize this aircraft.

“I am excited to be part of this momentous day for our Army,” Bush said during the FLRAA announcement. “The thoughtful and disciplined execution of the FLRAA program strategy will deliver the transformational capabilities we need to support the joint force, strengthen deterrence and win in multi-domain operations."

Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo told the Connecticut Business & Industry Association on Friday that the decision is an existential threat to the company. He said this will also hurt employment in Connecticut in the long run. Governor Ned Lamont also expressed his concern with this contract decision.

“This news is disappointing, but it’s important to remember you can’t fly without Connecticut," Lamont in a statement. "Sikorsky is a legacy Connecticut company with one of the best trained workforces in the world, and while leadership takes the time to review their bid to understand more about the Army’s decision, we stand behind them and their employees."

Sikorsky is expected to challenge the contract award due to possible flaws in the design of the Valor helicopters. In 2007, Sikorsky successfully challenged the Pentagon's decision to have Boeing produce HH-47 helicopters after Sikorsky found inconsistent evaluation of maintenance cost for its aircraft.

Sikorsky Aircraft will seek to produce their new Defiant X helicopter, if successful.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.