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Ahead of the Bundeswehr decision to replace its heavy-lift helicopters (the Schwerer Transportshubschrauber or STH programme, expected to reach the contract award stage in 2021), Sikorsky and Rheinmetall announced on 29 October that they intend to set up a logistics and fleet management centre at Leipzig/Halle Airport in the event the CH-53K wins the contract. This would establish numerous high-tech jobs and strengthen Leipzig and the local airport as a prime business location in the long term.

Rheinmetall and Sikorsky are working with the airport operator in Leipzig to establish the centre, which is necessary for the operation of the helicopter fleet. Both companies have also informed lawmakers and the Economic Development Corporation of the State of Saxony.

We are in advanced talks on a logistics and maintenance hub at Leipzig Airport,” said Mike Schmidt, Managing Director of Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH. “We are delighted with the very positive response so far. If the application is successful, the maintenance and supply of the new Bundeswehr transport helicopter could be carried out centrally and efficiently in Leipzig. For the region, the project would mean the settlement of important industry and associated jobs.”

Sikorsky and Rheinmetall have assembled a team of leading German technology companies, including MTU Aero Engines, ZF Luftfahrttechnik GmbH, Autoflug, HYDRO Systems KG, Collins Aerospace, Vincorion, Hensoldt and Rohde & Schwarz.

We have built up a strong industrial team in Germany that will ensure the availability of the CH-53K fleet for the German Air Force,” said Christian Albrecht, Business Development Manager at Sikorsky in Berlin, and a former Chief Operating Officer for maintenance management with the 64th Helicopter Wing of the German Air Force at Holzdorf Air Base. “With our plans for a hub at Leipzig/Halle Airport, we are laying the foundation to provide the Bundeswehr with a helicopter that will be reliable for several decades to come.”

In addition to using existing hangars and storage areas at Leipzig/Halle Airport, the team will establish a fleet management centre where technical helicopter data can be evaluated. The multi-mission CH-53K is the most modern, intelligent and capable heavy transport helicopter ever built. As such, the helicopter has an Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring System (IVHMS) that monitors the operation of the entire aircraft, recognises the maintenance requirements of important components and simplifies their maintenance. This will result in much higher readiness rates compared to today's legacy fleets. In addition, members of the project team will be located directly at the airport.

The Bundeswehr is expected to award a contract for its new heavy-lift helicopter in 2021. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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