In the military segment, while clearly concerned with continuing budget constraints, Sikorsky expects to achieve two milestones this year with the first flights of the CH-53K, the latest version of its heavy-lift military transport, and the S-97 Raider.
For the CH-53K, Sikorsky believes its government funding is on firm footing, and a ground-test vehicle is currently in operation with a formal acceptance ceremony scheduled for May. The S-97, a follow-on to the company’s X2 technology demonstrator, is now undergoing final assembly. Sikorsky believes the 80-percent composite-frame helicopter will be a strong competitor for an eventual armed scout competition, which could see orders of more than 400 aircraft worth more than $8 billion.
The company expects progress this year in the CH-148 Cyclone Canadian Maritime program, after the contractual issues that have caused years of delays, “We pretty well have that behind us,” said Sikorsky Aircraft president Mick Maurer. “We signed a principles of agreement at the end of last year that defines the terms of a contract amendment that we are now negotiating.” He noted the company expects resolution by March, and a clear path for the Cyclones to replace Canada’s aging Sea Kings starting in 2015.
While the company has won the competition (in partnership with Lockheed) for the U.S. Air Force combat rescue program, it has not been funded, but Maurer said Sikorsky remains cautiously optimistic about its chance for the 112 Black Hawk contract surviving the budget process.
Looking over the horizon, Sikorsky is partnering with Boeing for its entry on what Maurer describes as the biggest rotorcraft program in history with potential orders of 4,000 aircraft worth more than $80 billion. The SB-1 Defiant is expected to fly in 2017 as part of the joint multi-role tech demonstrator program, which will eventually replace the Black Hawk and Apache platforms.
While the U.S. defense budget is currently entering a down cycle, the company is looking to other regions–such as Asia and the Middle East–where military spending appears to be on the upswing, with an increase of 55 percent predicted over the next five years. “This year our international military sales versus last year will be up probably about three or four hundred million dollars,” said Maurer. “It’s not enough to offset everything that we would like on the U.S side and it can be a very volatile business.” Yet the company expects that foreign buyers will become an increasing segment of its customer base. “Right now our military business on the new aircraft side is about two-thirds U.S military, one third international,” Maurer said. “We expect that within a few years to go to about half and half.”