LONDON – Lockheed Martin’s subsidiary Sikorsky has delivered the third of a nine helicopter deal of Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) CH-53K helicopter well ahead of the contract deadlines to the U.S. Marine Corps, the company announced yesterday. The CH-53K helicopter has been built in Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Digital Factory at Stratford, Connecticut in the United States.
The new highly advanced CH-53K helicopter of LOT 2 of the LRIP contract was awarded to the Sikorsky by the United States Navy in 2019 to strengthen its aviation wing in rotary capacity.
The CH-53K is by far the most advanced heavy lift capability aircraft, exceeding all other United States Department of Defense rotary wing platforms. It is the only heavy-lift helicopter that will remain in production from now till 2032 and beyond, the company states.
At present, the newly delivered CH-53K will join the rest of the six in operation currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville at North Carolina. The only sea based, long range heavy lift helicopter, CH-53K will immediately provide three times the lift capability of its predecessor at sea, and will certainly extend naval capabilities and tactical support while on field.
Speaking on this occasion, Bill Falk, the Director of Sikorsky CH-53K program stated that “This Connecticut-built CH-53K aircraft is a credit to our employees and their skills embracing digital tools and other advanced technologies to continue the Sikorsky legacy of building modern, safe, reliable rotorcraft.”
“Our nationwide supply chain supports the active production line as we prepare to deliver two more CH-53K helicopters later this year. We look forward to continuing our progress towards next year’s full rate production decision.”
The Birth of CH-53K and its Legacy Ahead
Lockheed Martin’s legacy has always been regarded as the class apart in the U.S military aviation over the decades, and has always continued to equip the country’s air power to the most advanced levels.
Similarly, the CH-53K program was crafted by the Lockheed Martin’s sister concern, Sikorsky, in the digital environment, along with further digitalization of the programs design, manufacturing, training and sustainment teams.
The CH-53K’s network, which includes every aspect of the program, from work instructions to maintenance manuals are based on helicopter’s single, continues data thread, which stays consistent from its initial design till its sustainment.
Sikorsky asserts that, all of its aircraft programs are born in digital environment. The power of this digital thread drives affordability, producibility and reliability across the aircraft lifecycle, boasts the company for this achievement.
The new CH-53K of Sikorsky has set a milestone and recognized itself as a pioneer in digital platform with advancing installations of wheels, electric units, hydraulics and many more. The high-tech production line in the Connecticut is active with seven aircrafts being built on final assembly, stated Sikorsky.
CH-53K Beyond United States of America
The United States Navy’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) has recently awarded a contract to Sikorsky to equip Israel with 12 CH-53K heavy lift advanced helicopters, thus enabling the CH-53K to showcase its capabilities and expand its horizons beyond United States.
As per the FMS deal, the Letter of offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the United States Government and the Israel outlines the deliveries of CH-53K from 2025. The new CH-53K will replace Israeli Air Force (IAF) fleets of modified CD-53D ‘Yasur’ helicopters, which have been Israel’s backbone for over 50 years since its inception in the IAF service.
The IAF stated that, the new CH-53K will deliver modern state of the art capabilities that result in improved survivability, safety, and reduce aircrew workload over its predecessor, making it the perfect fit for the demanding IAF missions.
USMC and the CH-53K
The United States Marines have recently declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and have been flying and supporting the CH-53K in the fleet environment demonstrating the aircraft in track to deploy on schedule in 2024, as stated by the Lockheed Martin press release.
As per the records, the aircraft has flown more than 3,000 flight hours showcasing the CH-53K’s performance in range of mission scenarios and challenging environments.