COLOGNE, Germany ― Sikorsky has picked German sensor and electronics manufacturer Hensoldt as part of its bid to sell the CH-53K King Stallion transport helicopter to the Bundeswehr, according to Sikorsky parent company Lockheed Martin.
The team-up is the latest in a series of announcements meant to signal inclusion of domestic industry in what will essentially be a multibillion-dollar purchase by Germany from either Sikorsky or Boeing, which is offering a version of its Chinook tandem-rotor helicopter.
According to Lockheed, Hensoldt’s contribution in the new partnership will focus on systems for terrain avoidance, self-protection, collision avoidance, mission avionics, identification and related ground support.
But exactly what work share the German vendor will get has yet to be hashed out, a Hensoldt spokesman told Defense News.
The company has existed for only one year, subsuming the security and defense-electronics division of Airbus Group when it was spun off. Its products are used in a number of notable U.S. and European military planes and helicopters, including the F-16, Eurofighter, Gripen and Rafale combat aircraft and the Airbus A-400M cargo hauler, according to the Hensoldt website.
“We are proud to join Sikorsky’s industrial team with regards to the STH program,” said Sabine Hipp, head of Hensoldt’s sales and marketing. “Due to our experience in German helicopter programs, we are able to bring in the equipment critical for the mission success and the survivability of the platform. Our contribution is an essential asset to secure the implementation of mission-critical German core technologies for closing existing or upcoming capability gaps in our country.”
The Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, plans to replace its fleet of 1970s-era CH-53G choppers with up to 60 new helicopters sometime in the mid-2020s. Defense contractors and industry groups here bemoaned a decision by Defence Ministry leaders to pick an off-the-shelf aircraft for the “Schwerer Transporthubschrauber” program, or STH, at a time when domestic companies, namely Airbus, had no such offering in their portfolios.
That lingering sentiment has upped the ante for the two American bidders to play up their domestic industry angles.
In the case of Lockheed-Sikorsky, executives made sure the effort would be visible for all who care to look, with a constant stream of announcements of new German-U.S. industry partnerships for the King Stallion.
Boeing, meanwhile, appears to be holding its marketing fire, though insiders expect a grand showing of a Bundeswehr-specific Chinook at the ILA Berlin Air Show next week. The company has largely relied on the message that its H-47 is a market-proven aircraft, whereas the CH-53K is only scheduled to meet initial operational capability, or IOC, for the U.S. Marine Corps in 2019.
A report this year from the Pentagon’s chief weapons testing office cast doubt on the goal of declaring IOC in late December of next year because testing was behind schedule. “Design of the CH-53K is not finalized,” testers wrote. “Sikorsky is working on [it] but has not yet resolved problems discovered in developmental testing.”
The Marine Corps program manager has since vowed that the program will be able to catch up in time, Inside Defense reported last week.