The long quest by the U.S. Air Force to acquire a new combat rescue helicopter (CRH) appears to have concluded, with Sikorsky's announcement that it has received an engineering and development (EMD) contract worth an estimated $1.28 billion for a derivative of the UH-60M Black Hawk.
The EMD contract provides for four helicopters, the development and integration of the rescue mission systems and seven aircrew and maintainer training systems. Five more helicopters and training for their crews are on option, for delivery by 2020. Sikorsky said that up to 112 helicopters worth $7.9 billion might eventually be acquired. Lockheed Martin is the major subsystems provider in Sikorsky’s bid.
The USAF launched its CRH evalution in March 2010 after the failure of a more ambitious requirement designated CSAR-X (combat search and rescue helicopter-X). A version of the Boeing Chinook designated HH-47 was selected for CSAR-X in 2006, but protests from losing contenders and a rethink by the Pentagon spelled the end of CSAR-X in 2009. The RFP for the CRH was issued in October 2012. After examining the RFP, potentially competing OEMs decided not to bid.
Sikorsky provides the Air Force’s current CRH, in the form of the aging HH-60G Pave Hawk. The new CRH will retain the T700-GE-701D engines, composite wide-chord main rotor blades, and fatigue- and corrosion-resistant machined aerostructures of the UH-60M. But the fuselage will be redesigned for more internal fuel and cabin space, according to Sikorsky.
The company has already produced more than 700 UH-60Ms for U.S. and foreign military air arms.