Lockheed Martin gets over its helicopter hangover
Some 50+ years after it last attempted to develop a helicopter, only to see it quashed by the US Army, Lockheed Martin is back in the rotorcraft ring following its pending acquisition of Sikorsky.
Lockheed had a go at developing a helicopter in the 1960s and early 1970s, only for the programme to be cancelled and Lockheed never to dip its toes into the helicopter pool again, until now.
The aircraft in question was the AH-56 Cheyenne; developed for the US Army it made its maiden flight on 21 September 1967.
Unfortunately production was never fully launched and the programme did not make it beyond the prototype phase – ten of which were built in total. By the end of 1969 AH-1 Cobras were already being widely used in Vietnam, and spiralling costs and a fatal crash saw the army cancel its AH-56 order in 1972.
The army later went on to announce another Advanced Attack Helicopter programme resulting in the birth of none other than the AH-64 Apache.
Now it seems Lockheed Martin has belatedly dusted itself off and picked up the helicopter baton once more. This time through the acquisition of an already renowned brand, Sikorsky, for the sum of $7.1 billion.
This sees Lockheed Martin taking the reins of the S-97 Raider programme, which has echoes of the AH-56 in that it is also a compound helicopter with a rigid rotor system. Additionally, the company will be working alongside Boeing on the Future Vertical Lift programme, with Boeing and Sikorsky working under a joint venture to develop the SB>1 Defiant.
It seems Lockheed Martin regards helicopters as the way forward as my in-depth analysis here discovers.
What do you all think of the purchase and should the other rotorcraft OEMs be worried about how this positions the Sikorsky product line?