In a significant development, the U.S. Navy has sealed its largest-ever contract for the CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter program. The $2.77 billion contract, inked with Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, encompasses 12 lot 7 and 15 lot 8 aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps. Additionally, it includes eight aircraft slated for the Israeli Air Force.
Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo expressed enthusiasm about this contract, emphasizing its positive impact on their supply base, production efficiency, and the infusion of transformative 21st-century technologies into the U.S. Marine Corps.
Delivery of these helicopters is set to commence in 2026, marking a significant milestone for both the U.S. Marine Corps and the Israeli Air Force.
Israel had previously acquired four CH-53K aircraft in 2022 through a Foreign Military Sales agreement. These helicopters will play a crucial role in supporting the Israeli Air Force’s special operations program and various other missions.
Israel’s commitment extends further, with an option to acquire an additional six of the 12 aircraft now under contract. Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps has a program of record for a total of 200 aircraft.
For the U.S. Marine Corps, the lot 7 and lot 8 contracts represent their first two full-rate production contracts, utilizing fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024 funding, respectively. The declaration of the program’s readiness for full-rate production by the Navy in December marked a significant milestone.
Production at Sikorsky’s Connecticut facility is set to witness rapid expansion, especially since the initial six contracts already encompassed 42 aircraft. With full-rate production now underway, the Marine Corps is projected to acquire 21 helicopters annually, starting in FY25, according to budget documents.
Bill Falk, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program manager, highlighted the substantial changes made to their production line in Connecticut as they gear up for full-rate production. The plant now operates two parallel production lines, with the capability to manufacture two helicopters per month. This capacity could potentially expand to three per month if additional international customers opt to participate in the program.
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