Is there a place for Eurocopter in the next-generation heavy-lift market?
Sikorsky Aircraft and Eurocopter have said for some time they were talking about collaboration on the CH-53K program that Sikorsky is running to develop such a bird for the U.S. Marine Corps (and other customers). Collaboration would make sense, since the total market for a CH-53E successor is commonly estimated at 300-400 aircraft. That includes the Marine order, which now looks to rise from 156 to 227. The total is hardly enough to justify funding competing aircraft development programs.
But then Sikorsky picked four contractors to build the CH-53K airframe — the most feasible area of work for Eurocopter. But it wasn’t among the four. Eurocopter President and CEO Lutz Bertling said his company’s too busy with programs like the international NH90 and the U.S. Army’s EC145-based Light Utility Helicopter to take on more collaboration.
At the Paris Air Show, Sikorsky President Jeff Pino also seemed to welcome more talks with Eurocopter while at the same time nixing a tie-up. He said there are a few more partners to select on the CH-53K, citing provision of the rotor and dynamics. But rotor and dynamics system design is something Sikorsky considers a core competency to be protected.
Still, part of the total future heavy-lift market is the aircraft that France and Germany will buy, and it is likely an acquisition would include the requirement that Eurocopter be a participant in the winning aircraft program.