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United Technologies unit Sikorsky wins $1.24B contract to build 'Marine One' helicopters

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HARTFORD, Conn. - Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced Wednesday a $1.24 billion contract to build the next fleet of "Marine One" presidential helicopters, ending a yearslong effort to return the high-profile aerospace project to Connecticut.

Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., said the contract is to modify, test and deliver six S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators to the U.S. Marine Corps. It says it will eventually supply 21 aircraft by 2023.

"Every president since Eisenhower has flown in a Sikorsky, made right in Connecticut," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "I am thrilled to see this contract come back to Stratford where it has always belonged and where it should have gone in the first place."

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., said the Navy's decision "comes five years and $3.2 billion too late after first pursuing failed foreign alternatives."

DeLauro and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said the state's congressional delegation lobbied the Pentagon to end a previous contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. and Europe-based AugustaWestland after cost overruns nearly doubled the price of the program and saw it fall six years behind schedule.

Then-Defence Secretary Robert Gates, citing cost, cancelled Lockheed Martin contracts in 2009 for a helicopter to carry the president and a communications satellite.

The helicopters will not be manufactured solely in Connecticut. Assembly will be in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and principal subcontractor Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training will install communications and mission systems in Owego, New York.

Aircraft modifications and installation of the helicopter's interior will be at Sikorsky's Stratford, Connecticut, site.

The announcement is a big deal for Sikorsky, which has faced declining revenue and recently laid off workers after the U.S. military exited Iraq and has begun to wind down operations in Afghanistan.

In February, United Technologies Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes said Sikorsky faces a "tough couple of years," though he said it has a bright future.

Sales of the Black Hawk, which the military has relied on as a workhorse helicopter striking targets and ferrying troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, have fallen about 20 per cent year over year, Hayes said in January.

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