Home » Aviation » NAVAIR Awards Sikorsky $304M For First 2 CH-53K Heavy-Lift Helos

NAVAIR Awards Sikorsky $304M For First 2 CH-53K Heavy-Lift Helos

CH-53K. Sikorsky photo.

This post has been updated to include a statement by Sikorsky and the NAVAIR program office.

Naval Air Systems Command awarded Sikorsky $304 million for the first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters for the Marine Corps.

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, will build these two Lot I aircraft in its Stratford, Conn., facility. The aircraft should deliver in 2020, according to a Sikorsky statement following the contract modification award.

“We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed,” Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) heavy-lift helicopters program office, PMA-261.
“This incredible capability will revolutionize the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical throughput into that battlespace. I could not be prouder of our government-contractor team for making this happen.”

The Pentagon formally approved the heavy-lift helo to enter low-rate initial production on April 4, after the Marines put the first four CH-53K engineering and development models through a rigorous test program that included lifting a required 27,000 pounds externally and flying 110 nautical miles, among other requirements.

Since that Milestone C decision was approved, Sikorsky has continued testing, conducting a first “cross country” flight from Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach in Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The four EMD vehicles have totaled more than 450 hours of flight tests so far.

U.S. Marine Corps pilots maneuver a CH-53K King Stallion as it delivers a 12,000-pound external load after completing a 110 nautical mile mission during the two-week initial operational test (OT-B1) conducted at Sikorsky. Sikorsky photo.

“This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer’s facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing,” Michael Torok, Sikorsky vice president of CH-53K programs, said in a July news release.
“This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Sikorsky will eventually reach a build rate of 24 helos a year after full-rate production begins in 2020, Torok told reporters in April.

Vanderborght told reporters at the same event that the new aircraft would not only lift more than the legacy CH-53E but would also be more reliable and more maintainable, leading to a higher sortie-generation rate for the Marine Corps.

According to the Sikorsky news release, the helicopter’s cabin is a foot wider, which allows cargo pallets or humvees to be stowed internally while the troop seats remain installed. Its external hook system allows the helo to lift three separate payloads at the same time. And fly-by-wire flight controls and other automation reduces the workload for pilots to allow them to focus more on the mission and less on controlling the helicopter.

After buying the first two helos now, in Fiscal Year 2017, the Marine Corps requested funding for four in FY 2018, with funding for two additional aircraft included in the service’s unfunded requirements list.

  • Bailey Zhang

    151million per unit, it is an official Lockheed Martin company for sure now.

    • sferrin

      Yep, there’s the ignorance rearing it’s head.

      • John Rapisarda

        …says the guy with a Confederate flag for his profile picture…

        • sferrin

          That’s the best you have? Really? You forgot the mandatory SJW screeching.

  • DaSaint

    4 years to deliver the first 2 helos? Really?
    Can we pretend there’s a sense of urgency?

  • Eyes open

    Didn’t the V-22 replace this chopper?

    • USNVO

      The V-22 replaced the last of the twin engine CH-53Ds Sea Stallion in the USMC inventory. The CH-53K King Stallion is replacing the three engine, heavy lift CH-53E Super Stallion.

      • El Kabong

        Last I checked, the Osprey replaced the Sea Knight fleet.

        • USNVO

          It did, but it also replaced other aircraft, specifically the CH-53D fleet as well. For instance, VMM-363 was previously HMH-363 flying the CH-53D. For that matter the V-22 also replaced the CH-53Es in VMX-1.

          • El Kabong

            In small numbers.

            Where did the VMX-1 Phrogs disappear to?

    • El Kabong


      CH-46’s, for the most part.

  • Eyes open

    Thanks for the clarification. Too many models for this old brain to keep track of.

  • BlueSky47

    Try landing on of these on an LCS “the biggest flightdeck in the world short of an aircraft carrier” so says Duane, and it’ll probably sink it 😛

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    If they want to lower the raised eyebrows at the price tag, they are either going to have to look hard at the costs or order many more at a time.

    • sferrin

      How about we wait until the thing is actually in production before declaring the sky is falling?

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        Nice trick ordering 2 units but not actually producing 2 units!

        Isn’t the English language remarkable!

        • sferrin

          Now you just need to understand it.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0


            When producing units doesn’t mean producing units!

            C’mon Steve don’t be a silly-billy

  • sferrin

    Oh wow, you sure slayed me there. I think we know all there is to know about you.

  • Nick

    The Marines cold buy two or more CH-47Fs for the cost of a single CH-53K and the CH-47F Block 2 coming in 2020 can lift 22,000 pounds and with Block 3 with more powerful engines in 2025.

    So the question is why are the Navy/Marines budgeting to spend $26+ billions on the CH-53K for 194 a/c when they could buy ~ 400 CH-47s for same money.

    • allan desmond

      when you Marines ize a Ch 47 the cost go way up..