Editorial: Despite contract loss, Sikorsky’s value to CT unchallenged

A Black Hawk helicopter sits atop a pedestal outside the Sikorsky plant on Main Street in Stratford.

A Black Hawk helicopter sits atop a pedestal outside the Sikorsky plant on Main Street in Stratford.

Brian A. Pounds, Staff Photographer / Hearst Connecticut Media

One thing should be clear from the outset: The Pentagon chose poorly. The Army’s decision to replace the Black Hawk helicopter with one from Texas-based Bell as the next generation long-range assault aircraft was the wrong call. Sikorsky, the Stratford-based company that produces Black Hawks and was also bidding for its replacement, would have been the better choice.

The decision having been made, however, Sikorsky must now look to the future. The Lockheed Martin subsidiary remains in a strong position with a variety of other valuable contracts for helicopters now and into the future. But there’s no question that this decision stings.

A Sikorsky spokesman said in a statement that the company believes the “Defiant-X,” developed with Boeing to as the Black Hawk replacement, “is the transformational aircraft the U.S. Army requires to accomplish its complex missions today and well into the future.” The company further said it is reviewing feedback from the Army and considering its next steps, which could include an appeal depending on what is learned.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes not just Sikorsky’s headquarters but thousands of its workers, said she was disappointed in the decision but waiting until she learned more about what went into the call before planning next steps. Regardless of what happens, Sikorsky must take some lessons from the process.

The impact goes far beyond the company itself, with hundreds of smaller firms in dozens of towns across the state serving as suppliers for Connecticut’s largest private employer. With the loss of a major contract, the impact will be felt across a wide spectrum. There are also many more businesses indirectly supported by Sikorsky, such as those that serve its employees in Stratford and beyond.

It’s important, however, to maintain perspective. This is a blow, no doubt about it. But the company is strong, and is staying put. Deals under former Gov. Dannel Malloy and under his successor, Gov. Ned Lamont, have ensured that the helicopter maker will remain in Connecticut far into the future. If there’s one company the state doesn’t want to lose, it’s this one, with thousands of skilled jobs and thousands more ancillary jobs tied up in its future.

Sikorsky will continue, and it will remain strong. That much is not in doubt.

Next up is a decision from the federal government on the “future attack reconnaissance aircraft,” for which Sikorsky is also bidding. State officials say they believe the company is in a good position, but there is much that is unknown. These decisions are not made in Hartford, after all.

Regardless of what decision is made, Sikorsky has a decades-long track record of success. There have been wins and losses along the way when it comes to expensive contracts, but that is the nature of the business. The overall picture is one of strength, and a company that continues to persevere in a challenging environment with ever-stronger competition.

For the sake of the Connecticut workforce, that needs to continue. Sikorsky is a leader in the state’s economy, and its future success is closely tied to everyone else’s in the state.