The US Naval Air Systems Command has awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky a contract to build nine more CH-53K King Stallion helicopters with an additional contract option for nine more aircraft.
The low rate initial production (LRIP) fiscal year (FY) 2021 Lot 5 contract from June 25 will deliver nine aircraft in 2024 as part of a 200 aircraft program of record for the US Marine Corps.
The Lot 5 contract also contains an option for Lot 6, for an additional nine aircraft with a contract award in FY22.
“This contract award is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to execute this critical program in support of the US Marine Corps’ heavy lift requirement,” said Col. Jack Perrin, Program Manager, PMA-261 heavy lift helicopter program manager.
Worth noting is that the first of two contracts reduces the cost of a King Stallion to $97.6 million, while the Lot 6 option reduces the cost of each aircraft to $94.7 million.
The FY21 Lot 5 and FY22 Lot 6 contracts represent an average unit airframe cost reduction of $7.4M from FY20 Lot 4 to FY22 Lot 6, according to NAVAIR.
The program will start initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) in July 2021 and is poised to support the Marine Corps’ declaration of initial operational capability. In preparation for commencement of IOT&E, three system demonstration test article aircraft are currently being operated by Marine Corps’ Operational Test and Evaluation squadron, VMX-1, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC.
“As the long-range logistic support backbone for the US Marine Corps, it is essential that we get this critical capability to the fleet as quickly and as affordably as possible,” said Perrin.
The Lot 5 award brings the program total aircraft, either delivered or on contract, to 33.
The Marine Corps plans to buy 200 of the all-new heavy-lift helicopters, with a first fleet deployment set for 2023-2024. Powered by three General Electric T-408 engines, the CH-53K can lift more than 36,000 pounds and can carry 30 passengers or troops.