DSEI 2023: Lockheed Martin unveils Black Hawk strategy for UK’s New Medium Helicopter

Lockheed Martin outlines its plans to build and assemble Black Hawks in the UK, creating high-tech jobs and export opportunities.

Harry McNeil September 12 2023

At the London Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition, Lockheed Martin unveiled its strategy to participate in the UK Ministry of Defence’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement.

This initiative involves partnering with UK firms to produce the advanced Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter, offering a modern solution for UK defence and boosting the British industry.

Partnership with UK firms

The aerospace business laid out a roster of UK collaborators and the advantages of choosing the Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter as the successor to the UK’s ageing mixed medium helicopter fleet.

In addition, Lockheed Martin intended to work closely with these UK partners to create opportunities for the country’s industry, ranging from job creation to export prospects, manufacturing, and future technology development.

Lockheed Martin estimates that nearly 40% of the total Black Hawk production and assembly in the UK, predominantly for its airframe, will support approximately 660 high-skilled UK jobs annually between 2025 and 2030.

Furthermore, ongoing fleet sustainment is projected to support around 320 jobs annually for decades once the UK Black Hawk fleet is operational, in addition to future opportunities for more UK component workshare and technology transfer.

Addressing political uncertainty and the need to replace the Puma HC2

During the conference, concerns were raised about the potential political instability in the UK over the next two years and how a change of power could set the programme back.

However, it was emphasised that the programme almost has to move ahead to replace the Puma helicopter, which was delivered to the Royal Air Force in 1968. Lockheed Martin claimed that even with political instability, which could lead to delays, the company would still be best placed in comparison to its competitors, as it has the production line to pivot faster to deliver.

Lockheed Martin has a history of working on UK capabilities in the past, as it has been a key partner in other domain projects, such as providing 136 turrets for the UK Army’s Ajax programme and has provided the UK RAF and Royal Navy with F-35s.

Competing for excellence in the medium helicopter programme

Leonardo, which is providing competition in the UK’s Medium Helicopter Programme, has committed to carrying out 60-70% of platform content and through-life support in the UK for its AW149 offering. The company’s Yeovil site has previously built the AW159 Wildcat and AW101 Merlin helicopters in service with the UK military.

During the Lockheed Martin press conference at DSEI 2023, it was claimed that the company would start production life in the UK.

Chief Executive Paul Livingston expressed his confidence in the Black Hawk, stating: “The newest generation of the Black Hawk is proven, versatile, and ready now. It’s not only the right choice for UK defence, it’s the right choice for UK industry, and it will create a generation of high-skilled jobs here in Britain.”

Lockheed Martin officials signed a document launching the aerospace business’s Black Hawk pitch for the UK’s medium helicopter programme. Source: Harry McNeil

Part of the Team Black Hawk announcement involves Lockheed Martin formally partnering with Gosport-based StandardAero. Together, they will handle aircraft assembly, testing, delivery, maintenance, and integration of UK-unique equipment and systems, bringing highly skilled jobs to an economically disadvantaged area of the UK.

StandardAero in Gosport is set to become the home of the Black Hawk in the UK, collaborating with a network of UK-based companies and creating 660 high-skilled jobs that will span the UK Black Hawk’s lifecycle.

Simon Jones, StandardAero Group managing director, Europe, stated: “StandardAero is delighted to be teaming with Lockheed Martin UK on this once-in-a-generation helicopter programme. For StandardAero UK, it will mean upwards of 175 new, highly skilled jobs in one of the more economically deprived local areas of the UK, with many more throughout our UK-based supply chain.”

The Black Hawk is widely operated by the US and international militaries, with over 5,000 units delivered worldwide, providing a UK customer with an extensive global spare parts and services network.

The Lockheed Martin announcement is in anticipation of the MoD’s formal issuance of the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN).

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