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Sikorsky, Boeing team up to pursue Army helicopter contract

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Two of the nation's largest helicopter makers, Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Boeing, announced Friday a long-term partnership to build the next generation of use helicopters for the U.S. Army.

The companies signed the agreement creating the partnership on Sunday, but announced it during a Friday teleconference with reporters,

Executives with both companies were unwilling to provide any details about the partnership or where the new helicopters might be built if the manufacturers are awarded the contract.

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They cited as their reason for secrecy the competitive nature of the defense industry and a bid they expect to submit next month to develop a demonstrator model of the new aircraft the Army wants. The two companies frequently compete for business, but had previously joined forces for the U.S. Army's Comanche helicopter program, which was canceled in 2004.

But this much is known: The two partners will submit their joint proposal to the Army on March 6. The Army is expected to choose who will build the demonstrator model this fall.

If the Sikorsky-Boeing partnership were selected, they would have until sometime in 2017 to build and fly one or more demonstration models of the aircraft. The Army would then evaluate the aircraft, and if a version of the demonstrator were selected to be put into use, it would be delivered for use sometime between 2030 and 2040.

"The Sikorsky and Boeing team brings together exceptional technical expertise," Mick Maurer, president of Sikorsky Aircraft, said in a written statement. "Our customer can be assured this collaboration will bring together innovative, industry-leading engineering expertise with a deep bench of program leadership talent, and builds upon the combined resources of both companies to deliver a revolutionary capability for the warfighter at an affordable cost for the U.S. taxpayer."

"Our teaming agreement is the continuation of a long-standing relationship between Boeing and Sikorsky and reflects a common vision for the future of Army aviation," Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, said in a written statement.

A variety of factors, including national defense cuts, could have an impact on this project. But, if the proposal by the two partners is selected and ultimately ends up being used by the Army, it could have larger implications for broader use of the aircraft. Reuters News Service is reporting the Army program will lay the groundwork for the Pentagon's Future Vertical Lift program -- a massive project that will ultimately replace more than 4,000 medium-lift helicopters used by various military service branches.

Sikorsky, which is a subsidiary of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., makes the Black Hawk utility helicopter while Boeing builds Apache attack helicopters.
 

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