NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. believes it can deliver the US Air Force's Combat Rescue Helicopter program early, perhaps by as much as six months.

Samir Mehta, the head of Sikorsky's defense branch, told Defense News on Monday that he is confident the program is on track and looks likely to slip to the left — a rarity for major development and acquisition programs.

"It could be shifted left as much as six months, which will actually begin the program to the left one fiscal year," Mehta said. "That's not only important for the company from a financial execution standpoint but very important for our airmen, as they have been needing replacement helicopters for the Pave Hawk for many years."

The company underwent a program development review for the vehicle in April, and one for the training component in August, both of which Mehta termed as successful. The official designation for the program is the HH-60W.

For more from Mehta, watch the Oct. 2 episode of Defense News TV.

The CRH program covers 112 new helicopters to replace the service’s aging Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue machines, and could be worth as much as $7 billion over the life of the program. Sikorsky was awarded the contract in June 2014 after a number of competitors dropped out, leaving the company the sole bidder.

Since then, the helicopter giant was sold from its parent company, United Technologies, to Lockheed Martin. Systems on the platform will be provided by Rockwell Collins.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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