Lockheed Martin's CH-53K Super Stallion
will make its international debut
at the Berlin Airshow next April, sources close to the program told Reuters. Built for the US Marine Corps by Lockheed subsidiary Sikorsky under the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, the heavy-lift helicopter is being touted as a possible solution to Germany's CH-53G replacement program, which will see the King Stallion face off against the smaller Boeing CH-47F Chinook
in a $4.7 billion competition for about 40 units. However, an official start to the program—along with a formal structure to the competition—is unlikely to be unveiled until Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives manages to form a ruling coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens, an endeavor that could take until the end of the year. Israel is also reported to be interested in the King Stallion, adding a potential 20 units to Lockheed's order book.
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.