The Navy on Thursday awarded Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky a contract worth $2.7 billion to deliver 35 CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters, including eight of which that are bound for Israel through foreign military sales, according to announcements from company and the Pentagon.
Excluding the eight marked for FMS, the other 27 helicopters make up the seventh and eighth lots of CH-53K King Stallions, the successor program to the Marines’ CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft. The newer helicopters boast three times the carrying power as their predecessors, the Marines and Sikorsky have previously said.
The aircraft are scheduled to begin delivery in 2026, according to the company. In total the Marine Corps plans to purchase up to 200 CH-53Ks as part of the program of record. (While the CH-53Ks are used by the Marine Corps, the Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command is responsible for drawing up contracts and ultimately purchasing aircraft used by both services.)
“This contract award for 35 CH-53K helicopters stabilizes Sikorsky’s nationwide supply base, creates additional production efficiencies, and provides the U.S. Marine Corps with transformative 21st century technologies,” Paul Lemmo, president of Sikorsky, said in a written statement. “Our long-standing partnership led to this best value contract award providing the capability and readiness the Marines need.”
The Israelis plan to use the CH-53K for their air force and previously purchased four helicopters under a foreign military sales deal, Sikorsky said. In 2021, the US government cleared the potential sale of a total of 18 CH-53K helos in a deal valued at the time at $3.4 billion.
“The multi-mission CH-53K will support Israeli special operations programs, as well as provide the Israeli Defense Forces with a platform that has the speed, safety, survivability and gross weight capability to support all of its missions, including troop and cargo transport, and search and rescue,” according to Sikorsky’s statement Thursday.
The Marine Corps officially declared the CH-53K ready for operations in April 2022, following years of delay and programmatic setbacks. Several months later in December 2022, the Pentagon approved the program for full-rate production, an acquisition milestone signaling both the services and the contractor are ready to begin manufacturing the aircraft regularly.
This article was published by Breaking Defense on August 25, 2023.
It should be noted that Lots 7 & 8 are the first Full Rate Production Lots for the 53K program.
Lots 1-6 were LRIP Lots.
We have recently published a book focused on the coming of the CH-53K.