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News | July 6, 2020

Black Hawk delivery: COVID can’t stop DCMA’s warfighter commitment

By Jason Kaneshiro

With most of the country in some state of self-quarantine, the Army had a problem in March when the Defense Department issued a “stop movement” order that prevented them from getting 10 fresh-off-the-factory-floor UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters from a facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey, to the Republic of Korea.

Facing an approaching deadline to load the aircraft on a ship bound for Korea, the Army Utility Helicopter Program Office turned to Defense Contract Management Agency Sikorsky aircrews for help.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Noble and Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matthew Harris obtained special permission from then-DCMA Director, Navy Vice Adm. David Lewis, to move the helicopters from the Lakehurst post-production modification facility to a port facility in Wilmington, Delaware, where the aircraft were loaded onto ships and delivered to the Army in Korea.

“These motivated aviators were joined by two additional DCMA Sikorsky officers, Navy Cmdr. Timothy Rhatigan and Navy Lt. Nicholas Williams, who traveled from Connecticut to New Jersey, through the epicenter of the U.S. COVID outbreak in New York City, to ensure the ten helicopters were ferried safely from Lakehurst to the port facility for on-loading,” said Bryan Denardo, supervisory management analyst at DCMA Sikorsky.

The four officers of the DCMA aircrew team completed their task in just over a day and for a fraction of the budgeted cost of the mission. Their combined efforts ensured U.S. forces in Korea had the aircraft they needed to succeed in their mission to deter aggression and maintain stability in northeast Asia.

Coming off the successful Army delivery for the Utility Helicopter Project Office, the pilots at DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft received dozens more requests for support from the Army, National Guard and UHPO.

DCMA Sikorsky crews successfully delivered:

  • Two Arizona National Guard UH-60M aircraft from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Phoenix, Arizona
  • Four Taiwan Foreign Military Sales (FMS) UH-60M aircraft ferried from West Palm Beach, Florida to Savannah, Georgia
  • Two North Dakota National Guard UH-60M aircraft ferried from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Bismarck, North Dakota
  • One Idaho National Guard UH-60M aircraft ferried from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Boise, Idaho
  • Two Saudi Arabia FMS UH-60M aircraft ferried from Owego, New York to Savannah, Georgia.

The crews had 12 more aircraft scheduled to ferry in the summer months.

DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft aviators have also continued to complete their primary DCMA mission at home, delivering 17 UH-60M/HH-60M helicopters from the Sikorsky manufacturing plant in Stratford, Connecticut to the post-production modification facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey after completing the rigorous government acceptance test flight and process.

“This was a team effort that the military aviators were able to complete because of the outstanding teamwork of the nearly 200 DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft employees, notably the engineering and manufacturing team reviewing engineering change proposals, conducting surveillance on production and providing program management support with our partners,” Denardo said.

The contracting team ensured all activities were in-line with contractual requirements and obligations, quality assurance teams providing critical safety inspections and surveillance, and our mission support team taking care of travel and logistical concerns, Denardo explained.

“This is impressive support on normal days, but especially notable during the challenges of COVID-19 remote working and network challenges,” Denardo said.

DCMA Sikorsky and its tertiary command, DCMA Lockheed Martin Owego, New York, have approximately 200 civilian and military employees administering contracts and supporting Sikorsky Aircraft at their corporate headquarters and main plant facility in Stratford, Connecticut, the integration facility in Owego, and the manufacturing and test facilities in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Troy, Alabama.

Note: Special thanks to Bryan Denardo who contributed to this article.