STRATFORD, Conn. -- With the Pentagon planning to slash funding for new Black Hawk helicopters and a downturn in the number of choppers purchased by non-defense clients, lawmakers are trying another tactic in the battle to save Connecticut’s defense manufacturing industry.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, and seven other politicians are fighting to get funding so the Air Force can replace aging helicopters at U.S. bases that house intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Blumenthal said the committee has approved its draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 that would include national security provisions that will, in turn, support helicopter makers like Sikorsky Aircraft of Stratford.
The bill now goes to the full Senate.
The measure, Blumenthal said, “means more helicopters, submarines, and joint strike fighter engines” will be produced in Connecticut “enhancing our national defense and state economy.”
Blumenthal said he fought to ensure that the NDAA funding met President Barack Obama’s budget request for $929.3 million for 36 Black Hawk helicopters, $437 million for the first year of procurement funding for two Marine Corps’ heavy-lift helicopters known as CH-53Ks, and $61.2 million for the MH-60R Naval Hawk – all made by Sikorsky.
In a $9 billion deal last fall, Lockheed Martin took over from United Technologies as Sikorsky’s parent company.
Blumenthal said the measure also secures an additional $302.3 million for eight more HH-60 Black Hawks that are to be part of those replacing old UH-1N choppers now tasked with protecting the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields.
Obama’s budget request only called for $18 million for the replacement program, Blumenthal said.
However, the committee, after hearing from military leaders about the “urgent need” to replace the helicopters, agreed to include provisions that would accelerate the program, he said.
Blumenthal said he also worked to secure $5 billion for two Virginia Class submarines as well as $773 million for Ohio Replacement Program submarines, which are made in Groton.
The senator also cited the funding of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the engines of which are made by East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney.
Blumenthal said the bill also secures $6.3 million in military construction funding for an air terminal at Bradley International Airport for the National Guard.