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The US Marine Corps (USMC) has placed an order for the sixth construction lot covering the production of nine additional CH-53K helicopters from Lockheed Martin. The company has announced that the unit price has decreased compared to previous lots. The contract volume is estimated at US$684m (€597m), about seven per cent less than for lot 5, resulting in a unit price of €66m. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2025.

According to Lockheed Martin, a total of 54 CH-53Ks are currently in series production (Low Rate Initial Production, LRIP) at Sikorsky’s main plant, seven of which are in final assembly. Five CH-53K KING STALLION heavy transport helicopters have already been delivered from series production to the USMC. At least four more are to follow this year. These aircraft join the existing fleet of pre-production aircraft in operational testing/preparation at the USMC.

Lockheed Martin will continue to provide logistic support to the CH-53 fleet. The Fleet Common Operating Environment system already in use to analyse data and manage logistics will enable the necessary transition from reactive to predictive maintenance. The CH-53Ks are equipped with the Integrated Vehicle Health Management System for data evaluation. According to Lockheed Martin, the condition-based maintenance it enables will reduce maintenance personnel hours, lower life-cycle costs and increase the operational readiness of the entire aircraft fleet.

Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin’s helicopter business, says it is currently working with the US Navy on an additional Performance Based Logistics contract that will add the new CH-53K to the existing processes of the fielded CH-53E. A contract award is expected later this year.