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Spirit AeroSystems has successfully delivered to Sikorsky the third fuselage section for the CH-53K ‘King Stallion’ heavy lift helicopter program’s System Demonstration and Test Article (SDTA) contract.
Consisting of an integrated cockpit and cabin structure with a separately attached tail section, Spirit says the composite-skinned fuselage will enable prime contractor Sikorsky to begin assembling the third of four SDTA aircraft to further solidify the final production configuration of the CH-53K aircraft for the US Marine Corps.
“Spirit AeroSystems is pleased to be a major supplier to a new generation, heavy-lift helicopter capability for the Marine Corps,” said Phil Anderson, Spirit Senior Vice President of Defence Programs. “The strong, lightweight composite structures we are providing to Sikorsky will in turn give the Marine Corps a much needed increase in payload capability.”
Sikorsky came under contract to the US Navy in 2013 to assemble and deliver the four SDTA aircraft by 2017 in support of the Marine Corps operational evaluation of the CH-53K platform. Spirit claims it is on contract to deliver to Sikorsky the final SDTA fuselage unit later this year.
According to Spirit, the US Marine Corps will employ the four SDTA aircraft to verify the helicopter’s design capability to carry 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under “high hot” ambient conditions, tripling the external load carrying capacity of the current CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter.
The US Navy has included the four SDTA helicopters within the existing $3.5 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract initially awarded to Sikorsky in April 2006. From 2011 to 2012 as part of the SDD contract, Spirit explains it successfully delivered to Sikorsky seven fuselage sections from its Wichita, Kansas, facility. Sikorsky has applied those fuselage sections to two non-flying test articles, one ground test vehicle, and four flight test aircraft.
“The CH-53K fuselage is one of the most complex composite structures ever built by Spirit,” said Chris Falo, Spirit’s CH-53K Program Director. “Spirit’s design and build expertise in large complex composite structures helps us deliver this product to our customer on time and with the highest quality possible.”
The Marine Corps intends to order 200 CH-53K production aircraft (including the four SDTA aircraft), and to stand up eight active duty, one reserve and one training squadron to support the Marine Corps’ operational requirements.
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