A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 (Reinforced) prepares to land on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Sikorsky was recently awarded a $717 million performance-based logistics contract to provide supply and logistics support to the entire fleet of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps legacy CH-53E Super Stallions and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters.
Introduced in 1966, the H-53 is the primary heavy-lift aircraft for U.S. naval forces and will continue to serve with the Marine Corps until the CH-53K King Stallion comes online in sufficient numbers. The MH-53 Sea Dragon is used by the Navy for long-range mine hunting and heavylift missions.
The contract includes repair work, overhauls, spare parts, obsolescence mitigation and asset management services over four years. Contract performance is based on how ready for combat the company can keep the fleet, with additional incentives added for reduced demand and maintenance enhancements.
The expanded comprehensive arrangement will cover additional readiness for critical components, including main and tail rotor blades, main gearbox, main rotor head, flight control components as well as accessories such as refueling probe and cargo system components.
"We expect the expanded performance-based logistics to measurably improve material availability and reduce support cost while increasing overall aircraft readiness," said Pierre Garant, Sikorsky’s senior program manager for Marine Corps in-service programs. "Our support infrastructure and past performance-based logistics successes will result in Sikorsky continuing to reliably provide mission support critical to the warfighter."
As the Marine Corps' heavy lift-helicopter designed for the transportation of heavy material and supplies, the CH-53E Super Stallion is compatible with most amphibious class ships. With 4.5 hours of endurance, the helicopter can move heavy equipment over rugged terrain in bad weather and at night.
The contract should provide a reliable base of long-term sustainment as the aircraft continue to fully operate until the introduction of the CH-53K King Stallion.
The first of about 200 CH-53Ks the Marine Corps is buying from Sikorsky under a $25 billion contract was delivered in May to Air Station New River in North Carolina, where it will undergo further testing in preparation for initial operational capability in 2019. A second aircraft is scheduled for delivery in early 2019, and 22 others are in some stage of production, according to Sikorsky.
Once it enters service, the King Stallion will be the largest single-rotor helicopter in the U.S. military inventory. It will be able to carry 27,000 pounds of cargo compared to the 9,000 pounds a CH-53E can carry, effectively tripling the Marine Corps ship-to-shore lift capacity.
The redesigned and upgraded aircraft recently entered degraded visual environment testing at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, of which Lockheed recently released impressive footage.
Correction: This article originally stated Sikorsky has 18 CH-53Ks in production. It had 18 in production in May when the first was delivered to the Marine Corps. There are now 22 in various stages of production.