Amid profit gains, Sikorsky braces for Seahawk downdraft

Lockheed Martin, parent company of helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft, is hoping that potential deliveries to the Saudi Arabian government can offset the decline in the production of Seahawks.

Last month, the US Department of Defense authorised a $3.8 billion purchase of around 260 Sikorsky Black Hawk utility helicopters over five years, with some of the aircraft slated for delivery to Saudi Arabia. The contract also included a federal government option to purchase more than 100 additional aircraft that could see the total bill rise to $5 billion.

The contract with the Department of Defense followed the White House announcing a $110 billion deal to provide military systems to Saudi Arabia, which could also include as many as 150 Sikorsky helicopters.

The deals come as Sikorsky grapples with an 18 per cent decline in aircraft deliveries during the first half of 2017.

“We still expect to actually deliver more Black Hawks this year than we did last year — not a huge number, just a handful (more),” said Lockheed Martin CFO, Bruce Tanner. “We would expect to catch up and actually have sequential growth in Black Hawk deliveries… A little bit of a different pattern than what we saw in 2016, but that is the contractual pattern.”

Tanner added the company expects the number of Black Hawk deliveries to drop slightly next year, with Sikorsky absorbing a bigger reduction in Seahawk helicopter purchases by the US Navy in future years, by as much as a third or more, with the possibility of some of that slack being taken up by Saudi Arabia shipments.

Stratford-based Sirkorsky, the largest private-sector employer in southwestern Connecticut, has already announced around 160 redundancies at its primary Seahawk production facility in Alabama.

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