U.S. Air Force pencils in Sikorsky for helicopter buy

WASHINGTON Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:49pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sikorsky Aircraft Co, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), will be awarded a contract to supply the U.S. Air Force's combat rescue helicopter (CRH) program, but only if funding survives the military budget axe.

"The award is contingent on the outcome of the president's budget review process, where CRH would need to be funded across the future year's defense program," Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen said in a statement.

Top Air Force officials have said recently that the CRH program is not among the service's highest priorities at a time of tightening budgets.

Only one offer was received for the military's proposal. Sikorsky "provided an acceptable technical solution and we intend to award a contract based upon budget availability," Yepsen said.

The combat search and rescue helicopter contract could be valued at up to $6.8 billion.

The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging fleet of Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters for many years.

In 2006, it picked Boeing's (BA.N) H-47 Chinook helicopter, but the Pentagon canceled the $15 billion contract in 2009 after multiple protests by the losing bidders.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by G Crosse)

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