This post has been updated to include a new photo of the CH-53K from Sikorsky.
The Navy has issued Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky a $550.4 million contract modification for the next lot of the Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter.
The Navy awarded Sikorsky the funds for six CH-53K King Stallions as part of lot 4 of the program’s low-rate initial production phase, according to an Oct. 26 Pentagon contract announcement.
“The production of this CH-53K helicopter represents a new era in capabilities, technologies, safety and mission flexibility for the U.S. Marine Corps,” Bill Falk, the CH-53K program director for Sikorsky, said in a statement.
“Sikorsky is committed to supporting the Marine Corps to maximize the benefits of this all-new helicopter,” he added. “Pilots are already training on state-of-the art flight training devices to prepare in a safe, cost-effective manner for operational deployment.”
The Navy anticipates Sikorsky finishing the work in July 2024, according to the announcement.
USNI News previously reported that the Navy restructured the CH-53K test program to address technical deficiencies discovered on the test aircraft. Sikorsky and the Marine Corps announced the two had found a fix to one of the main problems – exhaust gas reingestion – in December 2019.
The Navy decreased the number of aircraft it planned to purchase in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request because it had not yet identified fixes to several technical problems.
Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the former Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation, told the House Armed Service tactical air and land forces subcommittee earlier this year that the service was ready to increase the rate of production in hopes of bringing cost of the aircraft down.
“The higher the numbers, the greater the learning curve from production,” Rudder told the panel of lawmakers at the time. “As we saw with F-35, as we ramp production, the cost curve comes down.”