Sikorsky Studying Possibility of Setting Up a Helicopter Center in Spain
By Dialogo December 08, 2010
Sikorsky, the most important helicopter manufacturer in the United States, is studying the possibility of setting up an aircraft equipment and maintenance center in Spain, although the project is conditional on signing a contract with the Navy for the sale of six second-hand SH-60F Sea Hawks and obtaining another contract for maintenance from the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
The first challenge for the U.S.-based multinational, which has revenues and personnel very similar to the European Eurocopter, is to complete the sale of the helicopters, worth nearly 155 million dollars, equivalent to around 114 million euros at current exchange rates, to the Spanish Navy, the daily Expansión reported.
The sale, still being studied by the Spanish Defense Ministry, has already been endorsed by the Pentagon, which sent an official notification to Congress on 30 September for its approval, which is expected to take place without major problems, industry sources told Infodefensa.com.
The notification from the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirms that the Spanish government has requested the approval of the possible sale, which would include six second-hand SH-60F multipurpose helicopters, thirteen T700-GE-401C engines – twelve installed and one spare – and support, training, and inspection services, as well as spare parts and manuals.
Modernizing the Navy’s Capabilities
According to the agency’s official statement, the possible sale “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally (Spain) that has been and continues to be an important force for economic and military progress.”
Specifically, the Pentagon agency indicates that the SH-60 helicopters would serve to modernize the Spanish Navy’s search-and-rescue capabilities, which would improve its ability to carry out humanitarian missions, airborne medical evacuations, fire-fighting, and anti-piracy efforts.
Spain currently has twelve SH-60s and consequently would not be expected to have problems absorbing and operating these additional helicopters.
The principal contractor for the engines will be General Electric, and the sale would not generate offset requirements.
Sikorsky in Spain
According to the daily Expansión, the U.S.-based multinational aerospace firm’s objective is to establish an aircraft equipment and maintenance center in Spain, most likely in Rota (Cádiz), the location of the base used by the Sixth Fleet, and so support its growth in the countries of Africa, “since that continent is one of the most promising markets for the helicopter business.”
With this intention, Sikorsky is finalizing an alliance with two Spanish companies that would carry out the work of equipping the aircraft, an activity expected to make up more than 50 percent of the total value of the contract it hopes to sign with the Spanish Navy in the coming year for the sale of the six helicopters, which since they will be second-hand, would require modernization for their new configuration.
If it achieves its objective, Expansión says, the group “would create a strong set of maintenance capabilities that would also serve, in turn, to meet the needs of the Navy’s Sea Hawks, as well as those of the U.S. Forth Fleet.”
Blow for Eurocopter
The business daily affirms that if Sikorsky’s plans materialize, it would be a blow to Eurocopter’s expectations in Spain. The EADS subsidiary is currently renegotiating with the Defense Ministry the sale of forty-five NH90 helicopters, which would be destined for the three military branches. “Nevertheless,” the newspaper says, “if the Navy covers part of its transport needs with the six Sea Hawks, it would be a clear argument in favor of lowering its initial order from the European manufacturer.”
In addition, Sikorsky would score a point against another of its global competitors, its fellow U.S. firm Boeing, which tried without success to get a foothold in Spain with a contract to sell its Apache helicopters to the Spanish executive branch.
The subsidiary of the U.S.-based United Technologies group had revenues of 4.7 billion euros in 2009 and a profit of 445 million. With more than 17,000 employees, it has manufactured almost a third of all military helicopters flying today around the world.
If it sets up a facility in Spain, it would be its fifth installation in Europe, since it has a factory in Poland and is present in Great Britain, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.