Navy Approves CH-53K Heavy-Lift Helicopter for Full-Rate Production

December 28, 2022 9:10 AM
U.S. Marines with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) test the capabilities of the CH-53K King Stallion on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune on Dec. 16, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

The Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter is now in the full-rate production stage of the program, the Navy announced last week.

The new stage comes after acting Navy acquisition chief Jay Stefany performed a program assessment and signed a Dec. 21 memo permitting the CH-53K King Stallion to move into full-rate production, Naval Air Systems Command said in a Dec. 23 news release.

“FRP is an important milestone to the H-53 Heavy Lift Program Office (PMA-261), as it allows the program to proceed beyond [low rate initial production] and begin increasing procurement quantities, thereby gaining production efficiencies and reducing unit costs,” NAVAIR said in the release.

The CH-53K, built by Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky, is slated to reach full operational capability in Fiscal Year 2029, according to the Navy.

“We have successfully demonstrated the performance and reliability of this aircraft,” Col. Kate Fleeger, the program manager for the heavy lift program, said in the release. “With FRP we will continue to build on the strong manufacturing, sustainment and support that has been established for the CH-53K.”

FY 2023 budget documents show plans to ramp up the buy of the CH-53K, which is purchased out of the Navy’s aircraft procurement account. After asking to buy 10 new helicopters in FY 2023, the service plans to purchase 15 helicopters in FY 2024 and then 21 helicopters each year from FY 2025 through FY 2027, according to the FY 2023 five-year budget outlook known as the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).

“Ramping up production of the most technologically advanced helicopter in the world allows the U.S. Marine Corps to build out its CH-53K King Stallion fleet and support mission success,” Sikorsky CH-53K program director Bill Falk said in a company news release. “This production authorization stabilizes Sikorsky’s domestic supply chain and is a testament to our enduring partnership with the Marine Corps.”

The Navy plans to deploy the CH-53K for the first time in FY 2024, according to the most recent budget documents.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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