Tag Archives: Sikorsky

Eastern Europe explores military helo options

UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.

Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.

In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.

The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Czech offers

Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.

A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.

A US Marines UH-1Y Venom in action (Image © Bell Helicopter)
Also on offer: the UH-1Y. (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Support

As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.

Slovakia

There’s no official news about a Sikorsky offer to the Czech yet, but it may be either S-70i, or UH-60M. Next door to the Czech Republic, Slovakia decided to acquire nine Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks through US FMS program. Four out of nine are to be delivered before May 2017.

In the meantime, there is already one Bell AH-1 in Czech Republic – albeit an unarmed TAH-1P. The chopper is owned by Heliczech company, and can be seen at the airshows in country quite often.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Featured image: A Czech Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter strikes a pose. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)
Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)

New giant: first flight for CH-53K

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter prototype, known as Engineering Development Model-1 (EDM-1), celebrated its first flight on Tuesday 27 October. The  flight of the new United States Marine Corps (USMC) heavylift chopper signals the beginning of a 2,000-hour flight test program using four test aircraft.  The flight comes after earlier delays over transmission system and gear box issues.

During its 30 minute maiden flight the EDM-1 aircraft performed hover, sideward, rearward and forward flight  control inputs while in ground effect hover up to 30  feet above the ground.  As the flight test program proceeds, the EDM-1 will be joined by an additional 3 EDM aircraft to fully expand the King Stallion’s flight envelope over the course of the three-year flight test program

“EDM-1’s first flight signifies another major milestone for the CH-53K helicopter program,” said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K Program Vice President. “Having independently tested the aircraft’s many components and subsystems, including integrated system level testing on the Ground Test Vehicle, we are now moving on to begin full aircraft system qualification via the flight test program.”

Features
Features of the CH-53K helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft with a Initial Operational Capability in 2019. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

Source: Sikorsky, with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The CH-53K, seen moments after lift off. (Image © Sikorsky)

Royal Air Force Sea Kings end SAR duties

The Royal Air Force (RAF) ceased Search and Rescue (SAR) operations with its well known yellow Sea King helicopters this weekend, ending an impressive 74 years of continuous life-saving operations by RAF crews. The last operational mission was flown on 4 October by a crew at Chivenor airfield, transporting a 38 year old male to hospital. Shortly afterwards, the RAF crew and helicoopter were relieved of their duty. Bristow Helicopters has taken over the SAR responsibility.

Official statistic show that since 1983 and using mainly Sea King choppers, RAF crews of six SAR-units throughout the UK completed 34,025 callouts and rescued 26,853 persons in distress. Each unit maintained a 15-minutes readiness state during daylight hours and a 45-minutes readiness state during night time.

The Bristow Group in 2013 won a 10-year and 1.6 billion GBP contract to provide SAR coverage, starting this year. It will no longer be Yellow Sea Kings, but red and white Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestlands 189s saving lives in the UK.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Yellow and always there when needed: a SAR Sea King. (Image © UK Ministry of Defence)

Meet the Lockheed Martin Black Hawk

As we at Airheadsfly.com reported earlier, Lockheed Martin is buying Sikorsky Aircraft. The biggest weapons manufacturer of the world – in sales – will thereby be the new daddy of the famous Black Hawk helicopter, the big CH-53 and the fast future combat helicopter of the future, the S-97 Raider – plus offshore rotary business and the Sikorsky daughter company Schweizer.

One of the leading helicopters in the oil and gas industry is the Sikorsky S-92, in use for years in for example the Norwegian offshore business (Image © Aircontactgruppen Norge)
RELATED POST: Sikorsky to disappear under oil and gas pressure
Lockheed Martin pays 9 billion dollar for the deal, to the company that was Sikorsky’s parent for 85 years: United Technologies Corporation. US Federal authorities will have to approve of the deal, safeguarding that it doesn’t collide with monopoly regulations.

If approved the transition of Sikorsky into Lockheed Martin will be done by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016. “The Corporation plans to align Sikorsky under the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training business segment. MST and Stratford, Connecticut, based Sikorsky currently partner on a number of critical programs, including the VH-92 Presidential Helicopter, Combat Rescue Helicopter and the Naval MH-60 Helicopter,” Lockheed Martin writes in its statement.

With the acquisition of Sikorsky by Lockheed Martin the end of the company founded in 1923 is there, as Lockheed Martin will likely release the Sikorsky helicopters of the future under its own name – the way Boeing did when it acquired McDonnell Douglas and the way McDonnell Douglas did when it bought Hughes.

Re-enacting air landing operations of World War II in the Netherlands in September 2014 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Black Hawks Re-enacting air landing operations of World War II in the Netherlands in September 2014 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Optionally Piloted Black Hawk Demonstrator Helicopter Takes Successful First Flight on 11 March 2014 (Image © Sikorsky)
Optionally Piloted Black Hawk Demonstrator Helicopter Takes Successful First Flight on 11 March 2014 (Image © Sikorsky)
The first UH-60M for Taiwan arrives by ship on 4 December 2014 (Image © RoC Army)
The first UH-60M for Taiwan arrives by ship on 4 December 2014 (Image © RoC Army)

Sikorsky produced the world’s first single main rotor helicopter, the VS-300, and was the force behind the XR-4 that became the first helicopter to fly cross-country across the USA. The Sikorsky S-58 became the first helicopter to retrieve a US astronaut, commander Alan Shepherd, in 1961.

The most numerous Sikorsky helicopter flying around at the moment is the Black Hawk and its derivatives like the Sea Hawk. With its first flight on 17 October 1974 more than 4,000 UH-60s and likes have been produced so far – with the military of 24 nations relying on these work horses.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Sweden was the first export customer for the UH-60M Black Hawk. Seen here in June 2012 during a tactical assault demonstration at F3 Linköping-Malmen Airbase (Image © Marcel Burger)

One of the new Australian MH-60Rs on flight trials off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, on 13 May 2014. (Image © LS Eammon o'Brien / © Commonwealth of Australia)
One of the new Australian MH-60Rs on flight trials off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, on 13 May 2014. (Image © LS Eammon o’Brien / © Commonwealth of Australia)

Sikorsky to disappear under oil and gas pressure

UPDATE | LOCKHEED TO BUY SIKORSKY – ANNOUNCED AS EXPECTED 20 JULY 2015 | Legendary US helicopter brand Sikorsky has a tough time. Feeling the price pressure in the oil and gas market, the manufacturer of the UH-60 Black Hawk, the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the S-92 (popular with the offshore industry) and the new S-97 Raider military chopper has been put up for sale by owner United Technologies Corp – 85 years after it joined this parent company. Amongst the initial potential buyers is Lockheed Martin, which according to sources wass the only serious candidate for the 8 billion dollar deal – turned 9 billion on Monday 20 July when the deal was confirmed. The name Sikorsky and of its subsidiary Schweizer may very well disappear, if the biggest weapons manufacturer indeed is allowed to incorporate Sikorsky.

A scenario similar to what happened when Boeing ate a big aircraft manufacturer in 1997 might be imminent. In that year the legendary McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache became the Boeing AH-64 Apache, after McDonnell Douglas did the same when it incorporated Hughes Helicopter in 1984. The equally legendary Hughes/McDonnell Douglas OH-6 Little Bird was split between MD Helicopters (MD 500) and Boeing (AH-6) because of US federal ruling on preventing monopoly on the civilian helicopter market.

A MH-60R with its tell tale equipment on the nose. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
A MH-60R with its tell tale equipment on the nose. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

If we’ll see a Lockheed Martin UH-60 Black Hawk and L-92 offshore chopper depends on the choice United Technologies Corp will make somewhere the coming months. That Lockheed Martin is already involved with f.ex. the MH-60 version of the Black Hawk is an advantage.

According to some sources Bell Helicopter and Cessna Aircraft’s mother company Textron was interested as well. If Textron would buy Sikorsky it will likely mean the survival of the brand name but also may result in a likely collision with federal authorities on domination of the civilian helicopter market. A same problem will be there for Boeing, if it wants to scoop up Sikorsky and Schweizer.

Player
A fourth player possibly willing to place his bets could have been General Dynamics. The company that brought us the current F-16 Fighting Falcon combat jet – sold off to Lockheed Martin – could have tried to strengthen its aerospace component, which currently consists of only Gulfstream Aerospace bizzjets and Jet Aviation services. Or “outsider” L-3 which is already heavenly engaged in modifying and constructing of (parts of) aeroplanes like Alenia Aermacchi’s C-27J Spartan.

Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the S-97 Raider helicopter on 2 October 2014 in Florida (Image © Sikorsky)
Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the S-97 Raider helicopter on 2 October 2014 in Florida (Image © Sikorsky)

Stratford
Whatever the outcome may be, very much depending on US federal authorities as well, the helicopter brand started by Ukrainian immigrant Igor Sikorsky in 1925 in New York state is facing a new phase. It is very likely that its rotary aircraft will keep rolling out of the main location in Stratford, Connecticut, for years to come – like it did when Sikorsky moved in there in 1929. The only question will be under which name newer Black Hawks and S-92s will take to the skies.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): One of the leading helicopters in the oil and gas industry is the Sikorsky S-92, in use for years in for example the Norwegian offshore business (Image © Aircontactgruppen Norge)