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Boeing-Sikorsky team, Bell selected for U.S. helicopter program

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

(Reuters) - A team of Boeing Co and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp and Textron Inc's Bell Helicopter have been selected to build prototypes of a multi-role vertical-lift aircraft as part of the U.S. Army's plan to replace thousands of helicopters.

The first flight for the Boeing-Sikorsky prototype helicopter, SB>1 Defiant, is expected in 2017, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday. (http://bit.ly/1r7emyV)

Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies Corp , and Boeing said in January they were teaming up to submit a joint proposal in response to an Army technology demonstration project to attract design plans for the new aircraft. (http://reut.rs/1sVb7bg)

The project, the precursor to the future vertical lift aircraft, could be worth upwards of $100 billion, analysts said in February.

The program will ultimately replace up to 4,000 medium class UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters built by Sikorsky and Boeing's Apache attack helicopters after 2030.

Bell said on Tuesday it would develop a prototype for the program based on its Bell V-280 Valor helicopters.

"The clean-sheet design of the Bell V-280 Valor creates the capability to fly twice the range at double the speed of any existing helicopter," said Bell's Keith Flail, who is the director for the Valor program.

Privately held Karem Aircraft and AVX Aircraft Co also bid for the program, according to the U.S. Army. (http://1.usa.gov/1sVcl6n)

(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Rohit T.K. in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)