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Navy League 2023: Sikorsky to ramp up CH-53K helicopter production

A CH-53K King Stallion lifts a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during an exercise. (US Marine Corps)

Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky company is preparing to increase production of its CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter following the recent achievement of several milestones, according to programme officials.

Sikorsky, which has delivered nine CH-53Ks to the US Marine Corps (USMC), including four in 2022, is poised to boost the production rate “over the next couple of years” to two a month, or “roughly 24 a year”, said Bill Falk, Sikorsky's CH-53K programme director. Seven CH-53Ks are being built at Sikorsky's factory in Stratford, Connecticut, in the US, with the lead one slated for delivery in April 2023, Falk told reporters on 3 April at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 conference.

The CH-53K completed its initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase and achieved its initial operational capability in April 2022. It received US Navy approval in December 2022 to transition from low-rate production to full-rate production.

The USMC plans to buy 200 King Stallions to replace its ageing Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions. It intends to conduct its first deployment with the new aircraft in 2025, said USMC Colonel Kate Fleeger, programme manager for H-53 helicopters at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

On the international front, Israel has agreed to buy 12 CH-53Ks, with an option for six more. Sikorsky has identified 15 additional potential customers in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and those “developing opportunities” are in “varying states of progress”, according to Falk. Sikorsky could increase production to three CH-53Ks a month, or 36 a year, if foreign demand becomes high enough, he said.

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