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U.S. Air Force sees Sikorsky helicopter award by end-June

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it would take $430 million from other priorities to fund development of a new combat rescue helicopter by United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky Aircraft, the only company that bid for the work.

The Air Force cited the importance of the rescue mission in a statement explaining its last-minute decision to proceed with the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) program just hours after Pentagon budget documents showed the program was being delayed.

"Moving forward with the CRH contract award protects a good competitive price and effectively uses the $334 million Congress appropriated for the program," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement.

The Air Force said it expected to award a contract to Sikorsky by the end of June after a review by senior Pentagon officials and an independent cost estimate.

James said the program could still face challenges in Congress and would have to be reevaluated if mandatory budget cuts resumed in fiscal 2016.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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