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Sikorsky aircraft sets its sights on producing S-70 Black Hawk helicopters în Brasov or Craiova

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US-based Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky aircraft sets its sights on producing S-70 Black Hawk helicopters in Romania, in Brasov or Craiova, if the army chooses this helicopter model to replace the old helicopter fleet Puma, the representatives of the American company, who have had several discussions with officials of the Romanian state in the last year and a half told News.ro, digi24.ro informs.

Sikorsky is the second competitor of Airbus Helicopters to equip the Romanian army with new multirole military helicopters to replace the old Puma helicopters, after Bell Helicopter, which wants assembling the AH-1Z Viper in Romania.

However, the players in the sector say that decisions on such contracts have an important political component, and discussions between companies’ representatives and Romanian officials in the government or the Ministry of Defense are constantly taking place.

“At this point, the discussions (with Romanian officials – editor’s note) continue to be preliminary, they are at the stage of market analysis, product analysis, referring to the operational capabilities of the various flying machines they are considering. Sikorsky has been in talks over the past 18 months with representatives of the Romanian government on a possible acquisition of helicopters,” Joel Villa, Sikorsky ‘s regional director for helicopters in central and Eastern European countries, told.

According to him, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin continue to be interested in partnerships with countries that have a good supply base, a developed industry and a skilled workforce, such as Romania.

Sikorsky, a company that was taken over in 2015 by the Lockheed Martin group – one of the largest players in the military equipment market (Aerospace & Defense) – has since 2007 a factory in Southeast Poland at Mielec, the only company outside the United States. In this context, the Romanian Ambassador to Warsaw visited the Sikorsky plant at Mielec two months ago to see how the helicopter model works.

If the decision to manufacture the Black Hawk helicopter in Romania will be taken, the production model could be that introduced at the factory at Mielec.

The costs for a Black Hawk helicopter starts from USD 12 million, up to USD 25 million, including additional equipment, maintenance, or pilot training.

Just recently, the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) issued a USD 3.8 billion U.S. contract to Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky for 257 H-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. Army and Saudi Arabia on Friday June 30.

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Representatives of Sikorsky visited over the last year the factories of Romania from the aeronautical industry and kept two places where the model Black Hawk could be produced: the airplane factory in Craiova and IAR Brasov, according to the mentioned sources.

Similarly, the ambassadors of Romania to Warsaw visited the factory Sikorsky in Mielec two months ago, to see the way in which the model of producing  helicopters happened.

In the case of a possible decision to produce the Black Hawk helicopter in Romania, the production model could be  the one produced in the Mielec factory, a former factory for the production of planes who turned, after being taken over by Sikorsky to the production of helicopters.

In Mielec most parts of the hull are produced in Poland by suppliers of Sikorsky ( such as Pratt&Whitney) who came with the producer of helicopters, and some parts produced in Mielec are exported to the US where they are used for the helicopters produced there.

A Black Hawk helicopter is 12 million dollars as a basic model up to 25 million dollars with supplementary equipment, maintenance and pilots training, but the price varies depending on the dimension of the order – the higher the order, the lower the price of the helicopter.

The S-70 /UH 60 known under the name of Black Hawk, received from the American army is produced after 1976, year when the competition for the endowment of the  US army with helicopters was won.

Recently, the American army announced that they will continue the programme Black Hawk until 2070 which would make the Black Hawk the model to have been produced in over 4,000 copies, the longest produced in history.

The factory in Mielec owned by Sikorsky was inaugurated by the Polish government in 1938 little before the destruction of the country by the nazi Germany and communist Russia following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

In the  production workshops built in Mielec in 1938 which are used even today, there were produced the bombardiers PZL 37 out of which over 20 got to Romania in September 1939 brought by the Polish aviation which withdrew from the Germans and the Soviets. The apparata were later used by the Romanian army on the eastern front.

CONTEXT

The helicopters producers aim at a contract for the replacement of the Puma helicopters of the Romanian military aviation from a generation of 45 years, even if some were modernised at SOCAT standards.

‘If you take into consideration the necessities of Romania – nobody knows better than our ministries about the necessary number of helicopters – our estimate is that, for the modernisation of the whole military fleet (of Romania) it is necessary to have 40-50 apparata’ stated recently Olivier Michalon, senior vice-chairman for Europe in Airbus Helicopters, in a discussion with the Romanian journalists.

The Airbus Helicopters  representatives, company considered for a long period of time favourite in getting the contract, say that the modernisation of the fleet of military helicopters may be made in time.

The interest is growing especially after Romania was committed to allocate starting with this year the equivalent of 2% of the GDP for the Defence, which means at the estimated value of GDP for 2017 (almost 180 billion euro) a budget for the Army of almost 3.6 billion euro or 4 billion dollars, out of which the sums available for the contracts for  endowment are significantly higher than in the previous years, when the budget of the ministry of defence was of almost 1.4% of GDP.

The price of a H215  of Airbus Helicopters is different depending on the endowment with equipments but  the representatives of the producer show the flexibility of the model which could be used both for troops transport of civilian personnel or commando teams, and for air supervision, the support of the infantry on land even for anti-submarine fight.

A level of 20 million euro for an apparatus could be considered a first criterion but the price depends on the installed  equipment and the number of ordered apparata.

Some experts, especially the American ones consider that H215M is not a military helicopter in the real sense of the word..

Over the last months  there have been  discussions in Romtehnica   - the company through which the acquisition of military technique is done, of the representatives of the producers interested in the contract for the new helicopters and the representatives of military aviation and some other Romanian institutions.

Sources stated for News.ro that among the Romanian experts involved in negotiations there is no consensus in connection to the way in which the new military helicopter should look like in Romania.

The only certainty is that the helicopter must be a multitasking one (which could be used for multiple tasks: troops transport, search-salvation, special troops assault and attack – by equipment with missile systems) as by comparison to the US (which use three main tyoes of specialised military helicopters: attack, transport and utility –UH) Romania cannot afford such a diversity of types.

On 13 September 2016, the helicopters factory in Ghimbav, Airbus Helicopters was inaugurated officially, in the presence of the French president Francois Hollande and the Romanian premier Dacian Ciolos.

Airbus Helicopters said that they intended to create in Romania a cluster of suppliers who should deliver solutions and equipments for the helicopters factory in Ghimbav.

Airbus Helicopters will start the production in Ghimbav after getting firm orders for at least 16 helicopters H215 civil or military, according to the representatives of the company.

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