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Funding Would Keep Helicopter Programs on Track & Help Maintain Southern Tier Jobs – Bill Includes $507 Million in Funding for New Fleet of Presidential Helicopters & $156 Million in Funding for New Fleet of Combat Search & Rescue Helicopters, Both Are Partly Produced By Lockheed Martin in Owego 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Funding Is Critical for Lockheed Martin Owego, At The Forefront Of Two of The Most Important Helicopter Programs In World

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $507,093,000 for the Presidential Helicopter program and $156,085,000 for the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) program, two major helicopter construction projects being undertaken by a team of Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego. The more than $663 million for Lockheed Owego is an increase from last year’s approximately $468 million. The bill, along with the funding allotment for these two helicopter programs, is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate as early as this week. Once the bill clears Congress it will head to the President’s desk for his final signature. Just last year, the United States Air Force (USAF) announced it had awarded a $1.28 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building this new fleet of 112 CRHs. In addition, in 2014, the U.S. Navy also awarded a $1.24 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building the new fleet of 21 Presidential Helicopters. This appropriation will help Lockheed to keep both programs on schedule for the following year. Schumer and Gillibrand called on their Senate colleagues to take up the bill and pass it so it can head to the President’s desk for final signature.

“This is a major milestone in our quest to secure the funding needed to build these state-of-the-art Presidential and Combat Search and Rescue helicopter fleets in Owego. These programs are vital our military, to protecting our president and top government officials and to the entire Southern Tier economy. The inclusion of this provision in the omnibus bill will give Lockheed the funding it needs to continue moving these helicopters down the assembly line,” said Senator Schumer. “I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill so we can send this to the President’s desk. Doing so will allow us to maintain hundreds of jobs in the Southern Tier, keep our President safe, and support our troops serving around the world.”

“This funding would support hundreds of good-paying manufacturing jobs for New Yorkers and would help continue Upstate New York’s proud manufacturing tradition by giving flight to the Combat Rescue Helicopters and Presidential Helicopter programs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “By securing strong investments like this, we can continue to attract new businesses and new jobs that can support families, and strengthen our economy and our national security. I am urging my colleagues to pass the omnibus bill so we can create more opportunities for Made-in-America manufacturing.”

Combat Rescue Helicopter

In 2014, the United States Air Force (USAF) announced it had awarded a $1.28 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building a new fleet of 112 CRHs, which are used by the military to extricate troops from dangerous situations and bring them home safely. The contract is expected to sustain a large portion of the workforce at Lockheed Martin Owego for the next decade and create hundreds of other indirect jobs at local vendors and suppliers. Schumer fought for years to ensure that building a new fleet of CRHs continued to be a priority for the USAF, after the program’s future – and a potential major contract for Lockheed Martin Owego – was brought into doubt due to an internal USAF restructuring debate.

Lockheed Martin Owego will be specifically tasked with developing the defensive systems, data links, mission computers, adverse weather sensors, mission planning systems and system integration of the CRH. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the new CRH fleet is necessary as the current fleet of rescue aircraft dates back to the 1970s, and is now outdated after years of chronic use and combat damage.

The USAF announced in 2010 that it would replace its aging and increasingly outdated combat rescue helicopter fleet—called the HH-60G PAVE HAWK helicopters—with new aircraft capable of performing demanding personnel recovery missions, including combat rescue and casualty evacuation. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin Owego then offered a proposed helicopter design – the CRH-60 – that would modernize the USAF’s aging combat rescue helicopter fleet and support all services needed in combat. This new CRH program will eventually replace the aging HH-60G legacy fleet with 112 new combat rescue helicopters. This new aircraft features increased internal fuel capability and additional internal cabin space.

In 2014, Schumer visited Lockheed Martin Owego, called the Former Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to publicly support the CRH program, explaining that the current fleet of aircraft for the mission were outdated and the military needed new and more capable helicopters.  In January of last year, Schumer announced that, after his continued efforts with top defense officials, the FY2014 Appropriations Bill included funding for the Air Force’s CRH, which is now part of the allocation going to Lockheed Martin. In February, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand sent a letter to Secretary Hagel urging him to support the next generation CRH and to fully fund it across the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). Earlier this year, Schumer urged the current Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James to award this contract and get the program running, as it will help the Air Force recover downed aircrew and isolated personnel in hostile environments.

The 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, located in Westhampton Beach, is a combat search and rescue unit, using combat rescue helicopters to complete their vital mission.

Presidential Helicopter

In 2014, the U.S. Navy also announced it had awarded a $1.24 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to build a new fleet of Marine One helicopters that are used to transport the President of the United States. Lockheed Martin Owego is being tasked with manufacturing and installing the helicopters’ mission communications systems and will also provide the maintenance training device and procedures trainer.  Additionally, the presidential helicopters will receive executive paint in Owego. The contract is expected to create or sustain high-skilled jobs in Owego. In 2009, Schumer secured a continuance to support Lockheed Martin’s involvement in Naval Helicopter Programs and visited Lockheed Martin Owego last year to support the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin bid for the new fleet of Marine One helicopters.

The current fleet of presidential helicopters is comprised of Sikorsky Black Hawk/Sea King models that are 35 and 40 years old, and they are in desperate need of replacing. The Navy contract is for a fleet of 23 new presidential helicopters, 21 for use and 2 for testing.

In 2009, as the previous presidential helicopter program was canceled, Senator Schumer worked with leaders in the Administration and appropriators to mitigate damage and negative job impact by negotiating a compromise that provided $100 million in funding to Lockheed Martin for mission systems and other technology work. As a result, 250 engineer jobs were saved at the Lockheed Martin Owego location, which helped minimize job losses.