If you ever wondered what Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works might do with a helicopter, stay tuned.
Lockheed and Sikorsky had worked together on rotorcraft long before the two companies became one last year, but the helicopter maker now has access to the secretive advanced projects division behind the U-2 spy plane, SR-71 Blackbird, stealth, and more. Now Sikorsky is looking to put some of those new technologies on its current and future helicopters.
“One of the areas that we’ve seen some significant opportunities is working with Skunk Works and some of the technologies that they’ve invested heavily on and matching them up with some of the technologies that we’ve invested heavily in,” Sam Mehta, president of Sikorsky’s defense systems and services division, said in an interview on Monday at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber conference.
Even when it was part of United Technologies, Sikorsky worked closely with Lockheed on the Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk, a new Air Force rescue helicopter, and the new Marine Corps presidential helicopter.
Over the past decade, Sikorsky’s research into high-speed compound helicopters with coaxial blades produced the X2 experimental helicopter and the larger S-97 Raider. Now the company is using that technology to build the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter it is building with Boeing for an Army demonstration program.
“Now we’re talking about mission systems and we’re talking about ways to weaponize that aircraft to give it greater offensive capability,” Mehta said of the SB-1.
Previously, Sikorsky would have had to forge a partnering agreement with another company – an oft-lengthy process – to weaponize an aircraft.
“Now all the answers I think we need for that technology and for that specific platform lie in our sister companies, and we have ready and full access to those,” Mehta said.
Mehta also touted Lockheed’s work in helping Sikorsky install weapons on the Black Hawk helicopter, making that an option for the more than 3,000 helicopters flying around the world. The upgrade is specifically aimed at the thousand-plus Black Hawks flown by U.S. allies.
“We can go to a customer now and say, ‘Instead of buying a dedicated attack helicopter, we have the ability to be able to sell you a kit and the ability to be able to provide you a solution for weaponizing you Black Hawk with various levels of integration,’” he said.