Rheinmetall announced on December 9 that the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) has contracted it to inspect, maintain and repair the air force’s fleet of Sikorsky CH-53G Sea Stallions.
From March 2021, the Düsseldorf-based company will take over two maintenance and repair bays belonging to the German Air Force’s 64th Helicopter Squadron at Diepholz air base in Lower Saxony. Although no exact contract figure was given, Rheinmetall says that the deal is valued in the “lower two-digit million-euro range.” It adds that the contract will run for five years and comes with an option for a one-year extension.
In a press release, the firm said: “Rheinmetall’s proposal won the tender, so that its subsidiary, Rheinmetall Aviation Services (RAS), will soon be in charge of maintaining and repairing Bundeswehr helicopters in Diepholz. RAS will draw on organisational and aeronautical regulatory support from its sister company, Rheinmetall Technical Publications, an approved aeronautical company located at Bremen Airport.”
The 64th Helicopter Squadron oversees the larger maintenance operations in a separate remote squadron. It operates a total of five Bundeswehr-owned maintenance and repair bays, which are solely for the CH-53G.
Sikorsky’s CH-53G Sea Stallion entered operational service with Germany in 1972. For the majority of its service life, the heavy-lift tactical transport helicopter was operated by the German Army before the platform was transferred to the German Air Force in 2013. AirForces Intelligence data states that, as of December 11, 2020, there are 66 examples of the Sea Stallion in operational service, comprising 40 CH-53GAs, 20 CH-53GS’ and six CH-53GEs.
In 2019, Rheinmetall joined forces with Sikorsky to offer the CH-53K King Stallion to the Bundeswehr as a viable replacement for its ageing CH-53G fleet under Germany’s Schwerer Transporthubschrauber (STH) programme. The CH-53K was in contention against Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook to fulfil Germany’s requirement for between 40 and 60 new heavy-lift tactical transport helicopters to replace the Sea Stallions.
However, on September 29, 2020, the nation cancelled the STH project, citing that the bidding process highlighted that not all of the programme requirements could be met within the planned budget. Despite the cancellation of this tender, Germany’s need to replace its ageing CH-53Gs remains a high priority for the Bundeswehr. The programme is now being re-examined and will restart in the future with alternative specifications and requirements.