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Black Hawk replacement ‘existential’ for Sikorsky’s future, executive says

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Sikorsky’s top executive is expressing confidence in the company’s design of a new helicopter to replace the Pentagon’s Black Hawk workhorse — while describing the final choice as “existential” for the future of one of Connecticut’s biggest manufacturers.

Paul Lemmo spoke last week as part of the “Made in Connecticut” forum hosted in Trumbull by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Lemmo is in his first year as president of Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky subsidiary, which has about 8,000 employees at its headquarters plant in Stratford and satellite locations in Bridgeport, Shelton and Trumbull.

That does not include some 250 other companies in Connecticut to which Sikorsky farmed out some $450 million in work in the past year, according to Lemmo.

Sikorsky is partnering with Boeing on the Defiant X to replace the Black Hawk used by the U.S. Army, with derivative helicopters, including the Navy’s Seahawk, the Pave Hawk in the U.S. Air Force fleet and the Coast Guard’s Jayhawk.


The Defiant X’s signature feature is a stacked set of counter-rotating blades, designed to provide far more stability and maneuverability. That allowed Sikorsky engineers to tack on a rear propeller pushing the Defiant X to a top speed in excess of 300 mph. Lockheed Martin has posted videos online of the prototype helicopter performing maneuvers.

Speaking Friday in Trumbull, Lemmo noted that Lockheed Martin uses a jet airplane to trail the helicopter during observations of speed tests.

More than 4,000 helicopters are in service globally today based on the Black Hawk design, which the U.S. Department of Defense wants to improve on for the next generation of aircraft under its “Future Vertical Lift” vision.

The Army also wants an armed scout helicopter faster and nimbler than its fleet of aging Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. For that contract, Sikorsky is pitting its Raider X — which like the Defiant X has a dual rotor set — against Bell’s Invictus helicopter prototype. The Black Hawk replacement is the larger of two initial programs.

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