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Sikorsky DOD business providing stable flight path through pandemic

Helicopter pilots in training from the Washington National Guard attempt to meet qualification standards as they land their UH-60 Black Hawk aboard the USS Shoup (DDG-86) (Gung Ho Vids/YouTube)
October 25, 2020

As Sikorsky digs into a trio of big Pentagon helicopter programs, the Stratford manufacturer drove its Lockheed Martin division’s gains in revenue and profits for the third quarter.

Sikorsky revenue rose by $180 million from a year earlier, accounting for more than 60 percent of the gain of its Rotary and Mission Systems division within Lockheed Martin that includes combat ships equipped with helicopter pads, drones and radar systems.

Lockheed Martin announced no major new Sikorsky contracts in the third quarter, with the Department of Defense revealing Lithuania’s purchase of a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters for $380 million. Sikorsky is slated to build another 60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Pentagon in the current 2021 fiscal year, at a value of $1 billion.

Sikorsky is deep into a trio of existing defense contracts that could support more than $2.5 billion in revenue in the coming year, pending finalization of a Department of Defense budget: the CH-53K King Stallion cargo helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps; a fleet of new VH-92A helicopters for use by the White House; and the HH-60W Jolly Green II to rescue downed U.S. Air Force pilots and other missions in hostile territories.

“The combat-rescue helicopter program and the CH-53K — we’ll see … growth there as these programs ramp up into production,” said Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet during a Tuesday conference call. “Black Hawk — even though its a strong contributor, … we’ll see a modest decline.”

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Lockheed Martin does not break out Sikorsky revenue totals separately from those of its RMS division, which recorded an 8 percent increase in sales in the second quarter to $4 billion. Tacking on Lockheed Martin’s three other divisions spanning jet aircraft, missiles and satellites, the company increased overall sales 9 percent to $16.5 billion, a record total.

Besides Sikorsky jobs in Stratford, Bridgeport and Shelton, the Connecticut influence of Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin extends to East Hartford, where Raytheon Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney builds jet engines that power the F-35 Lightning fighter jet and other military aircraft.

Lockheed Martin also has myriad smaller suppliers among Connecticut aerospace subcontractors. As a short-term employment stimulus during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Defense accelerated payments to subcontractors last spring and summer.

Longer term, Sikorsky is readying for a “fly off” next year with its prototype for what the Pentagon envisions will be a new generation of vertical-lift aircraft, head-to-head with the Bell Helicopter subsidiary of Textron.

The outcome could set up either manufacturer for decades of work, in the same way Sikorsky’s Black Hawk and Seahawk programs supported thousands of jobs in Connecticut over four decades amid swings in demand for commercial helicopters made by Sikorsky.

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(c) 2020 The Hour

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.