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April 17, 2024

Sikorsky to lay off hundreds after U.S. Army cancels development of scout aircraft program

PHOTO | GARY LEWIS A Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter on the company's Stratford shop floor.

Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft will lay off hundreds of employees as a result of the U.S. Army’s recent decision to cancel its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin said the company is reducing less than 1% of its positions within its Sikorsky business segment. Lockheed Martin has about 122,000 employees worldwide, according to its website.

“We intend to retain as many roles as possible to meet national security commitments and preserve the U.S. rotary wing industrial base,” the spokesperson said.

Lockheed Martin did not provide an exact number of jobs eliminated.

The reductions are across Sikorsky’s U.S. locations, which include its main plant and offices in Stratford, along with facilities in Trumbull, Shelton and Bridgeport, and in other states including Texas, Florida and Alabama. 

The Army began the FARA program, which involved developing a next-generation scout aircraft, in 2018. Two years later, it picked up designs by Textron’s Bell and Sikorsky, according to Reuters.

Sikorsky’s X2 aircraft, which offered "speed, range and agility that no other helicopter in the world can match," was designed for the program.

In February, the Army dropped the program after spending $2 billion on it, according to Reuters. The Army said that after a "sober assessment of the modern battlefield" it would instead increase investment in uncrewed aircraft, Reuters reported.

An April 15 article in Vertical magazine called the Army’s cancellation of the program “very upsetting for many in the industry.”

“The bottom line is that this is very disruptive for the companies involved,” Mike Hirschberg, director of strategy at the Vertical Flight Society, told the magazine. “They’ve had to put in hundreds of millions of dollars and they’ve hired hundreds of people for this program. Some of these employees moved across the country to take the jobs. Now, each company has to try and find other work for those who were working in the FARA program or lay them off.”

Julia Bergman, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ned Lamont, said the governor spoke with Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo Monday evening.

“While this news is unfortunate, the company remains committed to Connecticut and will continue to be an important contributor to the state’s manufacturing and defense sector,” Bergman said. “The administration has spoken with senior Army officials who have expressed continued and increased support for the Black Hawk program.”

Bergman said the administration expects the laid-off workers will be “quickly and easily absorbed into the state’s manufacturing ecosystem,” as there is high demand for engineers and technology workers in Connecticut. She said the state is working to connect them with new opportunities.

Sikorsky lost another major defense contract in late 2022, when the Army selected Bell to build a long-range assault aircraft that would replace some Black Hawk helicopters.

But Army officials have said they’re planning a multi-year contract for the procurement of the UH-60M Black Hawk, which is produced by Sikorsky.

“This deeply sad news should also be a call to action — to aid the workers and communities most directly impacted, but also to enhance investment in our defense workforce,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “Sikorsky’s engineers are among the best in the world and my office stands ready to do whatever we can to help all the workers who are affected by this deeply disappointing decision. These men and women are desperately needed throughout the defense industrial base, and I am confident their skills are critical to maintaining our national security.” 

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes Stratford, also released a statement about the cuts: “Sikorsky and its employees are the lifeblood of our community, and I will continue to do all I can to ensure the company has the resources to remain competitive and continue to create good-paying jobs in Connecticut,” she said.

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