Sikorsky won a $29.9 million modification
, which provides for rate tooling, physical configuration audits, associated systems engineering and program management in support of CH-53K
aircraft production. The CH-53K King Stallion is a large heavy-lift cargo helicopter designed to replace the Marine Corps CH-53E to move Marines from ships to attack beaches. Back in April, it was reported
that the aircraft successfully plugged into a funnel-shaped drogue towed behind a KC-130J during aerial refueling wake testing over the Chesapeake Bay. The CH-53K sea-based, long range, helicopter is designed to 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, Sikorsky officials say. It can lift more than 18 tons. Work will take place in Connecticut, Utah, Michigan, Kansas, Washington, New York and Nebraska. Estimated completion will be by December 2023.
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.