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The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky business a USD 2.77 Bn (EUR 2.56 Bn) contract to build and deliver 35 additional CH-53K King Stallion heavylift helicopters, the US Department of Defense announced on 24 August 2023.

The contract, which constitutes the largest procurement of the CH-53K to date, covers 12 Lot 7 aircraft for the US Marine Corps (USMC), 15 Lot 6 aircraft for the USMC, and eight aircraft for the Israeli Air Force (IAF) under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) construct, with deliveries to begin in 2026.

The US Navy order covering 35 CH-53Ks for the USMC and IAF is the largest procurement of the type to date. (Photo: USMC)

The US Navy declared full-rate production for the CH-53K programme in December 2022, which is expected to see an increase in the production rate to more than 20 helicopters annually in the coming years.

Prior to this latest order there were 44 aircraft in the Ch-53K programme either delivered or on contract, according to the Naval Air Systems Command website, with initial operating capability for the type in USMC service being declared in April 2022. The USMC has a procurement objective of 200 CH-53Ks.

The IAF procured an initial four King Stallions in 2022.

The CH-53K can carry a 27,000 lb (12,247 kg) external load over 110 nautical miles in high/hot conditions, which is more than triple the external load-carrying capacity of the legacy CH-53E aircraft in the same conditions. The King Stallion is designed to conduct expeditionary assault transport of armoured vehicles, equipment, and personnel to support distributed operations deep inland from a sea-based centre of operations, which is critical to USMC operations in the Indo-Pacific region. The type can also perform operations such as humanitarian relief, firefighting and search and rescue.

Peter Felstead