STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Sikorsky Aircraft, the Stratford-based helicopter manufacturer, lost out on a big contract with the U.S. Army.
The Army searched for the next generation of long-range helicopters, but Sikorsky will not be its new supplier. Instead, the military signed Bell Textron, a Texas-based company.
It was awarded the $1.3 billion contract over Sikorsky to develop the future workhorse of the American Army.
Sikorsky’s Black Hawk helicopter has been that workhorse for decades, and it’s looked relatively the same for all those years. Now, however, the Army wants to go in a new direction, one that’s faster with a longer range. That chalks up to a radically different helicopter.
Sikorsky thought its Defiant-X helicopter would fit this new bill. Instead, the Army decided to go in a different direction entirely. It chose Bell’s V-280 Valor.
That vehicle isn’t really a helicopter, however. It’s a tilt-rotor aircraft, meanings it’s more like an airplane, except its propellers tilt up so it can take off and land like a helicopter. It’s similar to Bell’s Osprey aircraft, which the Navy and Marines have used for 30 years. The Osprey did have its share of safety controversies years ago, however.
Sikorsky signed a deal with Connecticut this year to remain in the state in exchange for significant tax breaks. But, those tax breaks were contingent on Sikorsky winning some of these essential military contracts.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) said the decision surprised state officials. He spoke to the head of Sikorsky over the phone when the news broke.
“I wished him happy holidays, and he said, ‘I wish I had happier news for you,'” Lamont said.
Despite the loss, the company remained optimistic about its future.
“We remain confident DEFIANT-X is the transformational aircraft the U.S. Army requires to accomplish its complex missions today and well into the future. We will evaluate our next steps after reviewing feedback from the Army,” commented a spokesperson from Sikorsky.
And even though evaluations need to be made, the state reaffirmed its support of Sikorsky as a Connecticut legacy.
“This news is disappointing, but it’s important to remember you can’t fly without Connecticut,” Lamont said. “Sikorsky is a legacy Connecticut company with one of the best-trained workforces in the world, and while leadership takes the time to review their bid to understand more about the Army’s decision, we stand behind them and their employees. The state will continue to work closely with Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky to secure future opportunities for the people of Connecticut to make the most advanced aircraft in the skies.”
There are still years on the Black Hawk contract, which Lamont said means jobs would stay in Connecticut.
State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-District 31) said his concern is ensuring Sikorsky headquarters stays in Connecticut.
“You also have all the folks who work at Sikorsky in our communities,” he said. “They are the fabric of Stratford, Shelton, and Seymour.”
The company generates nearly 30,000 jobs in the state and billions in tax revenue.
“I’m confident they will continue to do what they need to do to grow their footprint in Connecticut,” Kelly said.