Battlespace Tech

Lockheed's $9B Sikorsky buy expands its work on future aircraft

Future Vertical Lift concept Sikorsky Boeing

Sikorsky and Boeing are working on a demonstrator for the Future Vertical Lift program.

With its $9 billion acquisition of Black Hawk-maker Sikorsky Aircraft, Lockheed Martin is aligning itself not only for a bigger share of the military’s helicopter business but also the Pentagon’s plans for future vertical-lift and autonomous aircraft.

Lockheed and United Technologies Corp., which owns Sikorsky, have reached an agreement on the sale, which bring with it $1.9 billion in tax benefits, making the effective sale price $7.1 billion, Lockheed said in an announcement.

As the Pentagon’s largest contractor, Lockheed makes a host of aircraft, electronics and weapons systems (including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter), but although it makes some of the components that go into helicopters, the company to date has not built helicopters themselves. By acquiring Sikorsky, the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer, that will change.

In addition to the Black Hawk, Sikorsky makes the Stallion helicopters used by the Marine Corps, as well as the Marine One helicopters. And the company also is involved with several forward-looking programs to develop the next generation of military aircraft while adding unmanned capabilities to existing craft.

It is one of three prime contractors, along with its new parent company Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences, working on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, program, which is developing a drop-in kit that would add autonomy to aircraft, thus reducing the size of a crew. It’s also demonstrated how Black Hawk helicopters can be flown by remote.

Lockheed has already done similar work, adapting Kaman Aerospace’s K-MAX helicopter for manned or unmanned use. The Marines began using it as an unmanned system in Afghanistan in 2011.

Concerning the future of military aircraft, Sikorsky is one of four primes—Boeing, Aurora and Karem Aircraft are the others—working on designs for DARPA’s vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) X-Plane, which aims to “cross-pollinate” the vertical lift of helicopters with the flying speeds of fixed-wing planes. The idea is to create a hybrid aircraft that can fly at 300 to 400 knots without the need for a runway.

And it’s working with the Army, Navy and NASA, as part of a team with Boeing, on the Future Vertical Lift program, which brings that hybrid approach to a variety of aircraft designs. (Bell Helicopter is the other contractor on that project.)

While building up its aircraft business, Lockheed also announced that it’s largely getting out of the IT services business, looking to sell off services that bring in more than $6 million a year. Nick Wakeman at Washington Technology reports that the company will divest five components—air traffic management, technical services, government/enterprise IT, commercial cyber and government health care IT—as well as the technical services business in its Mission & Fire Control sector. It will hold onto mission IT and services, energy solutions and space and space services.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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