Sikorsky has entered into a contract to provide the U.S. Navy with six additional production CH-53K King Stallion helicopters, which will be used to support the U.S. Marine Corps by providing expeditionary heavy-lift assault transport of armored vehicles, equipment and personnel for distributed operations deep inland from a sea-based center of operations.
The six helicopters make a total of 24 CH-53K production aircraft now under contract. The CH-53K program currently has five aircraft on the line at Sikorsky facilities in Connecticut and over two dozen in various stages of production. 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, for the first time, newly installed 10-ton cranes recently lifted a 12,000 lb. gearbox into a CH-53K production aircraft.
The CH-53K has almost completed all required developmental flight tests in preparation for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E), having flown more than 2,000 flight hours to validate the aircraft’s performance on a ship and in both hot and cold environments. The tests so far have included:
- Air-to-air refueling with a 27,000-lb external load
- Initial sea trials
- Flight tests in extremely hot and dusty conditions at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona
- Maximum weight single-point cargo hook sling load of 36,000 pounds
- Forward flight speed of over 150 knots
- 60-degree angle-of-bank turns
- Altitude of 18,500 feet mean sea level (MSL)
- 12-degree slope landings and takeoffs
- External load auto-jettison
- Gunfire testing
Major General Greg Masiello, program executive office, air ASW, assault and special mission programs, commented: “This contract award is a testament to the government’s confidence in the CH-53K platform. This award shows that we are working hard to make the aircraft more affordable. The capability and affordability of the CH-53K is important to ensure that we provide a valuable addition to the United States Marine Corps and our friends and allies.”
Bill Falk, Sikorsky CH-53K program director, said: “The production of this CH-53K helicopter represents a new era in capabilities, technologies, safety and mission flexibility for the U.S. Marine Corps. Sikorsky is committed to supporting the Marine Corps to maximize the benefits of this all new helicopter. Pilots are already training on state-of-the art flight training devices to prepare in a safe, cost-effective manner for operational deployment.”