The head of Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] Sikorsky sees the Pentagon focus on the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) region in the specifications for new helicopters it is producing and competing on.

“For [Future Vertical Lift, FVL], the Army clearly had the INDOPACOM region in mind when they set the specifications. I mean, both of those aircraft respectively have longer range and higher speeds than the aircraft they would be replacing. So you think of [Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, FARA] and it’s replacing the Kiowa Warrior, much greater speed and endurance. Same thing with [Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, FLRAA], the specs for that would have it be longer range and higher speed then a Black Hawk,” Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo told reporters during a roundtable Tuesday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference.

He said both the longer range and higher speed in the FVL aircraft as well as improved survivability and connectivity and the ability to network are the biggest factors contributing to the Army pivoting to a Pacific focus for its helicopters.

“That’s something really that we’re focused on as a company in Lockheed Martin and a lot of those requirements are there for those platforms. So I think FVL will come ready to fight in the INDOPACOM region and I think the Army is trying to make that loud and clear.”

A CH-53K King Stallion receives fuel from a C-130 tanker while carrying a 27,000 lb. load in September 2020. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
A CH-53K King Stallion receives fuel from a C-130 tanker while carrying a 27,000-pound load in September 2020. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Lemmo underscored the Army has not merely pivoted and changed requirements for the aircraft but “those requirements were there.”

He also said the company is considering Pacific region requirements in potential UH-60 Black Hawk upgrades to modify the older platforms.

Lemmo separately spoke to long term upgrades and modernization the company is looking to provide for Black Hawks because they expect the Army to retain that fleet for upward of 30 years alongside the new FLRAA aircraft (Defense Daily, Oct. 13).

“When you think about a Black Hawk modernization and a Black Hawk is going to be operating alongside of FLRAA, for example. We wanted to have a range that will help it operate in the INDOPACOM region. So one of the things we’ll look at in the modernization is how can we extend that range. With the open system architecture, how can we network the Black Hawk more than it is today – plug it in to the joint all domain [command and control, JADC2] network that’s being developed,” he said.

Lemmo also argued how the new CH-53K King Stallion helicopter for the Marine Corps will work in the Pacific context.

“The 53K…has way more endurance than the [CH-53E] and lift capacity so it’s built for the INDOPACOM region.”

“So I think the new platforms are all set, it’s really the enduring fleet that’s going to be out there and staying out there- how do we modernize those fleets to support INDOPACOM, that’s I think, the bigger question and we’re absolutely thinking about that for Black Hawk,” he continued.

Lemmo confirmed Lockheed Martin has not yet engaged with the Navy on any changes that need to be made to the CH-53K to fit into Project Overmatch specifically, but they are thinking about the issues.

The Navy bills Project Overmatch as the Navy’s portion of JADC2, which is the Defense department’s plan to build a cross-service digital architecture for multi-domain operations.

Lemmo argued that since the CH-53K is “born in the digital environment” with digital models that improve the production process that makes it easier to modify. He also noted the helicopter has an open architecture “so we can absolutely make those changes and it’s not going to take years and years and hundreds of millions of dollars to make those changes.”