Sikorsky, a unit of Pentagon’s largest arms supplier Lockheed Martin Corp, has been awarded a $1.13 billion contract for build 12 production CH-53K King Stallion helicopters.
According to the U.S. Navy’s announcement, these advanced helicopters are part of the 200 program of record aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps.
“The Marine Corps is very appreciative of the efforts by the Navy and our industry partners to be able to award the LRIP 2/3 contract,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, Deputy Commandant for Aviation. This is a win for the Marine Corps and will secure the heavy-lift capability we need to meet future operational requirements and support the National Defense Strategy. I’m very confident in the success of the CH-53K program and look forward to fielding this critical capability.”
The most powerful helicopter in the Department of Defense, the CH-53K King Stallion is a new-build helicopter that will expand the fleet’s ability to move more material, more rapidly throughout the area of responsibility using proven and mature technologies. The CH-53K is the only aircraft able to provide the Marine Corps with the heavy-lift capability it needs to meet future operational requirements for the vertical lift mission.
“I’m proud of the joint government and industry team in achieving this award,” said Col. Jack Perrin, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.
The CH-53K is the only sea-based, long range, heavy-lift helicopter in production and will immediately provide three times the lift capability of its predecessor. The CH-53K will conduct expeditionary heavy-lift transport of armored vehicles, equipment, and personnel to support distributed operations deep inland from a sea-based center of operations. The new CH-53K will have heavy-lift capabilities that exceed all other DoD rotary wing-platforms and it is the only heavy lifter that will remain in production through 2032 and beyond.
Designed and demonstrated the lift capability of nearly 14 tons (27,000lbs/12,247 kg) at a mission radius of 110 nautical miles (203 km), in Navy high/hot environments, the CH-53K lifts triple the baseline CH-53E lift capability. The CH-53K has proven the ability to lift up to 36,000lbs via the external cargo hook. The CH-53K will have an equivalent logistics shipboard footprint, lower operating costs per aircraft, and less direct maintenance man hours per flight hour. The combination of unmatched heavy-lift and range, fly-by-wire flight controls, with an advanced, integrated communications suite will provide the Marine Corps with the operational flexibility necessary to gain and, more importantly, sustain a tactical edge on the battlefield.
“Sikorsky employees and our nationwide supply chain are ready to ramp up CH-53K production to support deployment of this modern, safe and reliable aircraft in 2023-2024,” said Sikorsky Program Director Bill Falk. “This contract demonstrates the U.S. Marine Corps’ confidence in Sikorsky to expand production of this technologically advanced heavy lift helicopter.”
Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, and its suppliers have made significant investments in facilities, machinery, tooling, and workforce training to ramp-up production required for the CH-53K program. For example, we have installed more than eight new titanium machining centers, designed and implemented a new final assembly test facility with multi-floor ergonomic work platforms, installed 10-ton cranes, and now have 3D work instructions on the factory floor.
“We have transformed our factory for the future and implemented a model for all future helicopter programs,” Falk said. “Additionally, our engineers have implemented the latest technologies such as manufacturing simulation and 3D laser inspection technology. These investments in systems, personnel, and our facilities have elevated Sikorsky’s manufacturing technology and capabilities to meet production requirements of the CH-53K for domestic and international customers.”