Sikorsky To Deliver New King Stallion Helicopters for the Navy

Most powerful heavy lift chopper in the world has faced significant delays.

Sikorsky has been awarded a $1.13 billion contract to build 12 CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters for the U.S. Navy.

The Stallion is the only helicopter that can lift 18 tons in a single flight—and can carry most of that weight over a hundred miles in sometimes difficult flying conditions. Its carrying capacity will exceed that of all other military helicopters.

The aircraft benefits from the latest in manufacturing and operations technology. In fact, Sikorsky and its parent company, Lockheed Martin, made significant investments in its manufacturing and workforce capabilities in order to make the Stallion. The production facility includes eight new titanium machining centers, a new final assembly test center with ergonomic work platforms across multiple levels, and 10-ton cranes. The factory floor is fully digitized, with all of the chopper’s features maintained in a digital system that the people making the aircraft can access from computer screens and tablets anywhere in the production process.

“We have transformed our factory for the future and implemented a model for all future helicopter programs,” said Sikorsky Program Director Bill Falk. “Additionally, our engineers have implemented the latest technologies such as manufacturing simulation and 3D laser inspection technology. These investments in systems, personnel, and our facilities have elevated Sikorsky’s manufacturing technology and capabilities.”

The helicopter itself also incorporates next-generation technologies. It will feature an all-digital cockpit, three entirely new engines and composite rotor blades. Flight controls will have a “full authority fly-by-wire” option designed to significantly reduce pilot workload, increase safety and enhance situational awareness. While fly-by-wire technology is not new, the King Stallion will be the only one equipped with the “full authority” system.

CH-53K Flight Tests.

Sikorsky was awarded the contract despite problems and inefficiencies in the chopper’s test program and design problems in the aircraft itself. In fact, a recent Pentagon report pointed out a total of 126 design deficiencies. Overhauling design and production should help resolve these glitches, and company officials are confident that the Stallion is back on track.

“The majority of the technical issues that we’ve discovered over the 1,400 hours of flight test, nothing too terribly different than we would expect to find on a development program,” said Falk. “The majority of them are already resolved…we do have a set of issues that we still are in the process of resolving and demonstrating, but we’ve got a plan in place.”

Sikorsky will begin delivering the helicopters in 2022, and also provide spares and logistical support.

Read more about Sikorsky’s other choppers at at Advanced Automation Features Added to Sikorsky S-92 Variants.