STRATFORD, Conn. – Stratford-based Sikorsky will produce 200 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters that will go to the U.S. Marine Corps after gaining approval from the U.S. Department of Defense.
“The headline is that these state-of-the-art helicopters will be made in Connecticut," Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement last week. "This is an exciting milestone for Sikorsky and for our state."
Malloy said the production would of the helicopters would have benefits beyond Sikorsky and throughout the region.
"This isn’t only about Sikorsky – it’s also about the supply chain companies and the thousands of employees in every corner of our state who will benefit," he said. "That’s why we worked so hard to ensure the CH-53K King Stallion would be built right here in Connecticut.”
Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's Heavy Lift Helicopters program, praised the Sikorsky-built helicopter.
"We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed," he said. "This incredible positive step function in capability is going to revolutionize the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace."
Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky's parent company, said the CH-53K King Stallion program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board review and achieved a Milestone C decision.
"This establishes the CH-53K as a production program and marks another critical step toward our goal of delivering this tremendous capability to the USMC," said Michael Torok, Sikorsky vice president of the CH-53K programs.
Reviews of the helicopter took place throughout 2016. The aircraft achieved over 400 flight hours, and the October Operational Assessment by the USMC established the ability of the King Stallion meet the needs of active-duty Marines.
"Overall, post evaluation interviews of aircrew, ground crew and flight surgeons revealed a high regard for the operational capability demonstrated by the King Stallion," Lockheed said in a statement.
The CH-53K King Stallion provides unmatched heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E that it replaces.
The U.S. Department of Defense's Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The first six of the 200 are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the USMC.