Senate approves defense bill with goodies for Sikorsky

The Senate offered up some good news for beleaguered Sikorsky Aircraft, approving a defense authorization bill that includes more than $3 billion for helicopter purchases and upgrades from the Stratford-based company.

The measure, the National Defense Authorization Act, won approval in the House last month. It now goes to a congressional conference committee before heading to the president’s desk, perhaps next month.

The bill does not actually appropriate money but rather sets spending guidelines for Congress to follow.

For Sikorsky, the authorizations include:

_ $1.56 billion for 94 UH-60 Army Black Hawk helicopters.

_ $46.64 million to upgrade 40 UH-60 Army Black Hawks.

_ $969.99 million for the procurement of 29 MH-60R Navy helicopters.

_ $632 million in R&D for the Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion helicopter replacement.

It also continues the Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter program, and the Navy’s continuing replacement of Marine One, the presidential Helicopter.

A proposal by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to obtain 15 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard did not get a vote.

But the Senate bill included language making note of the need to upgrade existing Army National Guard helicopters and purchase new ones.

Sikorsky’s up-and-down sales revenues prompted its parent, Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., to announce it is looking to sell or spin off Sikorsky into its own company.

At the Paris Air Show last week, UTC CEO Gregory Hayes said the company had received three bids for Sikorsky and expected to receive more, making it more likely that Sikorsky would be sold rather than spun off.

Sikorsky employs 8,000 in Connecticut. Earlier this month, the company announced it would close its Bridgeport plant and consolidate jobs at its main Stratford facility. A Sikorsky spokesman cited downturn in demand for helicopters to service offshore oil rigs.

Daniel Freedman