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Boeing hopes proposed new bird can replace venerable Blackhawk helicopter

The SB1 Defiant is designed to fly better in hotter climates and higher altitudes. Boeing is hoping to win an Army contract to build 6,000 of the choppers to replace the current fleet of Apaches and Black Hawks. (photo: Boeing)

The Black Hawk helicopter has been the darling of the U.S. Army's fleet since 1979, fueling the imagination of the public in films like "Black Hawk Down."

But now, the Army's getting ready to retire the Black Hawk from service, along with the Boeing-made Apache helicopter. Hoping to earn the contract to make their replacements, Boeing is teaming up with the maker of the Black Hawk, Sikorsky Aircraft.

At a recent Army conference, Boeing unveiled the SB-1 Defiant. It's a helicopter they've designed to be better equipped to fly in hot climates and higher altitudes.

Boeing and Sikorsky are hoping it will be one of two helicopters the Army will fly into battle for two years starting in 2017. Then, the Army will decide which model it wants to put into production to replace a fleet of Apaches and Black Hawks.

That final contract will be for about 4,000 helicopters and worth somewhere between $20 and $60 billion.

"That's the real prize at the end of the competition here," says Damien Mills with Boeing's Vertical Lift program.

The Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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