SSSI could join war on drugs

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 7, 2000

Staff Writer

A Troy helicopter manufacturer is one of three Southeast Alabama defense companies that could enter the drug war.

Sikorsky Support Services Inc. of Troy, along with U.S. Helicopter of Ozark and GKN Westland Aerospace Inc. of Tallassee, stands to receive part of a $1.3 billion military construction appropriations bill that targets Columbia drug traffickers.

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Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., announced this week that the Senate passed the bill on Friday and it is being sent to the president for his signature.

The anti-drug money for Columbia would pay for things, such as training and equipping Colombian troops and police, as well as the purchase or refurbishing of at least 45 helicopters ­ 33 UH-1H (Huey IIs) and 12 UH-60 Blackhawks.

Sikorsky is one of the three Alabama companies in line to help build or refurbish those helicopters and train Colombian pilots.

SSSI would provide Blackhawk pilot and maintenance repair training, Sessions said.

"It’s crucial that we provide this aid to the Colombian government to combat armed insurgents who threaten the very stability of the country," Sessions said. "I am very proud of the work that these Alabama companies will be doing in support of our anti-drug efforts in Colombia."

Although it might be "premature" to discuss how the contracts will affect personnel, Bill Tuttle, spokesman for Sikorsky Aircraft’s home office in Stratford, Ct., said the company will do its part in fighting drug traffickers.

"We stand ready to support this critical mission," Tuttle said.

Sessions was also able to get $2 million in design funding included in the military construction spending bill for a proposed RAH-66 Comanche helicopter training facility at Fort Rucker. Construction could begin as early as next year.

"This is the first step in establishing the Comanche helicopter training program at Fort Rucker, home of Army aviation," Sessions said.

For about 15 years, SSSI has repaired helicopters for the armed forces and has been doing so in Troy since 1985.