By S.L. Fuller | February 6, 2018
Lockheed Martin last week reiterated how excited Sikorsky is to send the CH-53K to Germany to fly internationally for the first time at the Berlin Airshow. Germany, Lockheed Martin EVP and CFO Bruce Tanner said, is one of the King Stallion’s “most likely” customers. At least, the manufacturer is hoping for a positive outcome in Germany’s heavy-lift competition.
Sikorsky said Tuesday it has signed a strategic teaming agreement with Rheinmetall to bid its CH-53K for the German Air Force "Schwerer Transporthubschrauber" (STH) Program.
Rheinmetall is the lead teammate, Sikorsky said.
"With Rheinmetall as the strategic partner for Sikorsky, we are convinced that together we provide the best possible state-of-the-art aircraft for the German Air Force as successor for the legacy CH-53G fleet," said Armin Papperger, Rheinmetall CEO. "Furthermore, we stand strongly together in offering a cost-effective, reliable solution oriented to the needs of today's operations, and able to evolve with the armed forces as its needs change over time."
Sikorsky said the two firms are looking to introduce more German teammates in the coming weeks.
Multiple news reports have said the Luftwaffe has indirectly noted preference for the Boeing CH-47F Extended Range Chinook, which would be Sikorsky’s main competition in this tender. Germany wants to buy as many helicopters as they can with available funds, the reports said. The CH-53K is infamous for its high price tag.
"Boeing currently has contracts with nearly 100 companies in Germany. The requirements for a Chinook in Germany will result in additional activities being done in country and additional work to be done by our existing, qualified supply base in Germany," Boeing said in response to the Sikorsky/Rheinmetall teaming. "We are developing additional partnerships with German industry for the heavy-lift helicopter competition and will announce those at the appropriate time."
Rheinmetall Group specializes in mobility and security solutions. Its defense division produces vehicle, force protection and weapon systems, as well as infantry equipment and air defense technology, and from engagement sequence networking to sensors and electro-optics as well as advanced simulation and training solutions. The group has some 23,000 employees worldwide, but is based in Düsseldorf.
The King Stallion demonstrated its ability when it lifted, and set back down, a joint light tactical vehicle at Patuxent River in Maryland Jan. 18. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) said Tuesday the aircraft used its single-point hook to carry the 18,870-pound vehicle as it hovered at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet for some 10 minutes.
“This was a first-of-its-kind event for both the CH-53K and JLTV programs,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Hank Vanderborght, program manager for the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters program office, PMA-261. “Watching these two high priority programs come together on the flight line was an exceptional sight.”
Before this test, the helicopter showed it could lift other external payloads by using representative concrete slabs of up to 27,000 pounds. Next, the King Stallion is to test its capability with up to 36,000 pounds.
“The biggest thing my unit noticed was the stability of it,” said Cpl. Ronald Fritter of Combat Logistics Battalion 25. The battalion's Helicopter Support Team provided ground support for the hook activity. “Safety is paramount while underneath the bird because you have so many variables with the down wash of the aircraft to the hook … with the hook not moving around at all, little to none, it makes our jobs easier.”
A sixth aircraft joined the CH-53K test program recently, Navair said, as a system demonstration test article. This adds to the four engineering development and manufacturing model aircraft and a ground test vehicle.
This article has been updated to include a statement from Boeing.