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Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin (LMCO) CH-53K helicopters could be available as early as 2025 as part of the planned Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procurement of new Heavy Transport Helicopters (Schwerer Transporthubschrauber – STH) for the German Armed Forces, LMCO and its German industrial partner Rheinmetall announced at a press conference. According to the two industrial partners, the US Government sent the Bundeswehr information to this effect on 8 April. According to the two companies, an even earlier delivery might also be possible, provided the German Government files an official request. Apparently, the US Marine Corps (USMC) would be willing to cede some of the production capacity intended for the itself to the Bundeswehr if necessary.

The Bundeswehr has been in the process of procuring new STHs to replace the fleet of 70 CH-53Gs in its current inventory for several years. In addition to the CH-53K (known as the KING STALLION in the United States and dubbed KILO in Germany), Boeing’s CH-47 CHINOOK is also in the running. In both cases, the Bundeswehr is seeking to procure them in the scope of an FMS programme, although a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) deal had originally been envisaged but was rejected for cost reasons.

An Earlier Timeframe

According to Rheinmetall and LMCO, delivery of the first CH-53K would take place from 2025 onwards from current series production. Training of German pilots with the USMC would also be possible earlier, according to the companies. Mike Schmidt, Managing Director of Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH, said that the CH-53K met all requirements of the German STH programme, is available and has a recognised certification (including air-to-air refuelling capability) from the responsible US aviation authority, Naval Air Systems Command. This certification has probably already been recognised by the German Armed Forces Aviation Office.

After seven years of operation, 11 aircraft of this type are currently in service with the USMC. The CH-53K fleet is said to have an availability rate of 89 per cent and requires up to 30 per cent fewer maintenance personnel than older aircraft.