The U.S. Army is expected to award a contract for the development of a Black Hawk helicopter successor in October. It is potentially a very big program, and competing industry teams are straining to prevail. One team, led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky unit, is highlighting potential dangers to the rotorcraft industry’s workforce, depending on who wins or loses the award. The other team, led by Bell/Textron, is stressing a different facet of the potential industrial-base fallout. It says that if the Future Vertical Lift program under which the Black Hawk successor is being competed is delayed or scaled back, a crucial opportunity to renew the rotorcraft sector will be lost. Bell says industry must complete the transition to digital models and open system architectures, but without Future Vertical Lift it isn’t clear where the funding would come from to do so. Thus, while it acknowledges that jobs will be lost and gained depending on which team prevails, Bell/Textron argues the more important issue is whether the Army and industry stay on the cutting edge of innovation. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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