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Tuesday, January 11, 2000:

Sikorsky expects more rebuild business in future

STRATFORD, Conn., USA ( Reuters ) - Helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a unit of United Technologies Corp. , expects ``rebuild'' or upgrading work from the United States military to become a bigger part of its business in the future, Sikorsky President Dean Borgman said on Tuesday.

While Sikorsky will remain a designer and builder of new aircraft, it is also working with the U.S. Navy to rebuild its existing Seahawk helicopter fleet -- with improvements such as glass cockpits and more sophisticated electronic controls -- and hopes to do the same with the U.S. Army, Borgman said in a speech to Connecticut business executives.

Borgman said the rebuild programs promise to become a significant source of income for the company, but did not elaborate.

Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky, one of the world's biggest helicopter makers, had estimated 1998 revenues of $1.8 billion. Figures from 1999 are not yet available.

Sikorsky currently has a contract with the U.S. Navy to refurbish and modernize existing Seahawk helicopters, some of which date back to the early 1980s. It is also discussing a rebuild program with the U.S. Army, which has more than 1,500 Black Hawks in operation.

Borgman, who became head of Sikorsky last July after longtime head Eugene Buckley retired, outlined potential new projects, including development of an unmanned aerial vehicle called Cypher, which he said has a number of possible uses for civil and military customers.

Sikorsky last summer won a contract to build two Cypher II prototypes for the U.S. Marines, and is now seeking other demonstration contracts for the aircraft.

Borgman also said Sikorsky's vaunted S-92 transport helicopter, which features a stand-up cabin and can accommodate up to 22 passengers, is expected to receive Federal Aviation Adminstration certification next year, with production deliveries expected to begin in 2002.

A launch customer for the S-92, the industry's first new ``medium'' category helicopter (weighing from 15,000 to 35,000 lbs, or 6,818 to 15,909 kg) in 15 years, has not yet been announced. Sikorsky has said the S-92 might eventually account for half of the company's total sales.

The S-92 is a joint venture, led by Sikorsky, with components made by partners in Brazil, Spain, Japan, Taiwan and China.

Sikorsky is in the midst of a restructuring announced last July, when it said it would trim 1,100 jobs by the end of 2000. It has about 7,000 employees, mainly in Connecticut.

Sikorsky on Tuesday laid off 172 employees in Connecticut and Florida as part of the restructuring, company spokesman Bill Tuttle said.

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