Sikorsky won a $107 million modification
for the low rate initial production of organic capability pilot repair material, technical publications, peculiar support equipment and logistics support for the CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The Sikorsky CH-53K
is a heavy-lift helicopter. It can be fielded from amphibious assault ships for the transportation of personnel and equipment. It will also be used to carry external cargo loads. At the end of June, the CH-53K finished two-week sea trial in the Atlantic Ocean. Work under the modification will take place in Connecticut, France, Canada, Florida, Mississippi, New York, Virginia, Arizona, California and the various locations within the continental US. Estimated completion date is in June 2025.
The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.
Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.