Sikorsky's HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is shown during its first-ever flight on May 17, 2019, in Florida. Sikorsky courtesy photo.
LE BOURGET, France—Typically when the Air Force’s head of acquisition is pressed for answers about program progress, it’s about problems. But when Will Roper gave an update on the Combat Rescue Helicopter program this week, he had only “really good” things to say about industry.
Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky had the helicopter on an accelerated schedule, but the report stated that mission-critical components—such as radar links, rescue hoist, gun mount, and others—all had to be redesigned.
“We were in a troubled spot for CRH going toward first flight and operational test, but the Lockheed Martin team turned it around,” Roper told Air Force Magazine during an interview at the Paris Air Show. “They really came together, they owned a level of rigor that had been missing. They made it personal to get back on schedule, to get to first flight, and to retire the deficiencies we were seeing. I got to say hat’s off to that team.”
By the time the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report was released, the Air Force was aware of the issues and Sikorksy was working through them. Issues had been “stacking up” and once things started to slip, it “dominos” to more problems, Roper said.
Sikorsky worked to get the program on to its original schedule, with the first flight taking place May 17. There are now two flying Whiskey models at the company’s Florida facility.
The first flight included an hour of basic maneuvers, and future tests will evaluate specific systems on the aircraft. The Milestone C—initial production—decision is expected later this year. The service expects to buy 112 combat, test, and training aircraft for $7.1 billion.
Roper said June 18 the Air Force “needs to find a way to recognize” the team that worked to get the helicopter on schedule, because “if we had that on every program in the Air Force, we’d be unstoppable.”