Paris 2011: Sikorsky S-70i, Cyclone Lead International Push

 - June 22, 2011, 3:00 AM

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (Hall 3 D108) is displaying two helicopters at this year’s Paris Air Show that are key to expanding the company’s international footprint, executives said. The S-70i Black Hawk, exhibited outside the United Technologies Corp. chalet A344, is making its first appearance at a major international airshow. On the static line (F210) is the CH-148 Cyclone multi-mission helicopter Sikorsky is building for the Canadian Forces, another Paris debut.

First deliveries of the S-70i, a lower cost Black Hawk derivative assembled at Sikorsky’s PZL Mielec facility in Poland, are set to begin in the next several weeks to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. The aircraft on display is one of six assembled and flight-tested to date at PZL Mielec, which Sikorsky acquired in March 2007.  

Sikorsky reports further interest in the S-70i from other agencies in Saudi Arabia as well as countries that operate older, L-model S-70A Black Hawks, including Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Brunei. The company plans to ramp up production to two aircraft a month at PZL Mielec by late 2012.

“From an emerging country standpoint, the S-70i is a perfect airplane, and that’s really where we’ve targeted that product,” said Carey Bond, president, Sikorsky Global Helicopters and chief marketing officer.

Complementing that effort will be the recently awarded Turkish Utility Helicopter Program. Sikorsky in May said it won the $3.5 billion program to provide 109 T-70 Black Hawks, a Turkish derivative of the S-70i, for use by several different agencies in that country. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will assemble the aircraft in Turkey, with components supplied by Sikorsky and other companies. The parties are in the process of negotiating a contract and obtaining export approvals.

“That’s big, and it’s not just a helicopter order. It’s broader than anything we’ve done in terms of co-production,” said Mick Maurer, president of Sikorsky Military Systems. “It really helps solidify the franchise of the Black Hawk in the international market.”

Maurer said the long-term program with TAI eventually will support international Black Hawk deliveries beyond Turkey. “That will be a 20- to 30-year program, and as part of that program, they will also be part of our supply chain on the S-70i,” he said. “So we’ll actually be delivering some S-70is out of Turkey as well as Poland. The Turkish capacity is for Turkey and also for what we believe will be some incremental business that we wouldn’t have received without them as an ally in helping to market our product in some other places where we’d really have little presence.”

Under a foreign military sale approved this spring, Sikorsky will deliver 15 UH-60M Black Hawks to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration in 2011-2012. The latest model Black Hawk, with small modifications for Sweden, including a rescue hoist, will be built in the U.S.

The company said robust orders from the U.S. military, sustaining the production line through 2020, help drive international sales. Another foreign military sale, to Australia for 24 MH-60R Seahawks, was announced earlier this month.

It also said it sees a long life for the CH-148 Cyclone, a derivative of the S-92A commercial search-and-rescue helicopter developed for the Canadian Forces. Sikorsky was awarded the contract for the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program in November 2004 to replace aging CH-124 Sea Kings.

The first “fully compliant” Cyclone is scheduled for delivery in July 2012, with delivery of all 28 helicopters by December 2013, according to the Canadian Forces.

Sikorsky has already delivered paramilitary configured S-92s, dubbed H-92s, to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior and other users.

New derivatives and international customers will be a hedge for the company against declining overall U.S. military spending. Despite the ongoing utility of the Black Hawk, as well as the maritime Seahawk, Sikorsky is battling the downturn. The company recently announced 400 layoffs at its Military Completions Center in Horseheads, New York, citing flattening military orders and the need to stay competitive.

Jeffrey Pino, Sikorsky president, expressed confidence in the prospects of the Black Hawk line and the CH-53K Super Stallion under development for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines are seeking 200 vastly improved heavy lifters to replace CH-53Es and Ds. The K model passed a critical design review last summer and is expected to fly in late 2013. Pino described the “Kilo” as second in priority for the Marines to the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.