Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, has awarded Lockheed Martin a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1 contract to build two production CH-53K KING STALLION helicopters. This contract follows the 4 April 2017 Milestone C decision by the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) approving LRIP production.

Gaining the US Marine Corps (USMC) approval to enter into production and the award of the first contract are milestones made possible by the tremendous achievements of the joint Sikorsky, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and USMC team,” Dr. Mike Torok, Vice President, CH-53K Programs, explained. “This is what we have been striving for - to deliver this amazing capability to the USMC.”

Under the $303,974,406 million contract, Sikorsky will deliver two production aircraft to the USMC in 2020 along with spares and logistical support. Aircraft assembly will take place at Sikorsky’s headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut.

We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed. This incredible capability will revolutionise the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical through put into that battlespace. I could not be prouder of our government-contractor team for making this happen,” Col. Hank Vanderborght, USMC Program Manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's Heavy Lift Helicopters programme, PMA-261.

The Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, CH-53K KING STALLION provides three times the lift capability of its predecessor, the CH-53E Super STALLION. The helicopter cabin, a full foot wider, gives increased payload capacity to internally load 463l cargo pallets, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) or a European FENNEK armoured personnel carrier, while still leaving the troop seats installed. The CH-53K’s external hook system provides the capability to lift three independent external loads simultaneously. Full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management reduce pilot workload enabling the crew to focus on mission execution. Features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilised hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments and tactile cueing. These features permit the pilot to focus confidently on the mission at hand while operating in degraded environments.

Dr. Dennis-Peter Merklinghaus

The US Department of Defense's Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The USMC intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements. (Photo: Sikorsky)

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