Sikorsky delivers first Connecticut-built CH-53K to the USMC

The first CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopter to be built at Sikorsky's facility in Stratford, Connecticut, has been delivered to the US Marine Corps (USMC).

The CH-53K finished the build process on September 24 and is the first CH-53K King Stallion to roll off Stratford’s production line, with the next CH-53K due to be delivered early next year. It is also the first all digitally designed helicopter.

Sikorsky employees building CH-53K aircraft utilising 3D work instructions. Sikorsky

The factory floor at Stratford is currently active with six CH-53K aircraft in build, plus 36 more in various stages of production, including the nine that Sikorsky are procuring for long lead parts. 

The president of Sikorsky, Paul Lemmo, said, “This Connecticut-built CH-53K aircraft is a testament to the Sikorsky legacy of building safe, reliable rotorcraft for decades. But the way we design, test and build helicopters has transformed. “Our employees are using digital tools and other advanced technologies such as manufacturing simulation and 3D laser inspection technology. This factory transformation is a model for all future helicopter programs at Sikorsky.”

The first Connecticut-built Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is celebrated during a ceremony at the company's Stratford facility. Sikorsky

This CH-53K helicopter will be delivered and stationed at Marine Corps Aviation Station New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina where US Marines will conduct training flights and support the fleet with heavy-lift missions with the CH-53K in preparation for its first deployment in 2024. Since October 2020, Sikorsky have delivered three other operational CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters to the USMC in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

USMC pilots and maintainers of VMX-1 operational test and evaluation squadron are now currently operating a total of four CH-53Ks in a fleet environment as part of the initial operational test and evaluation programme. 

A CH-53K conducts air-to-air refuelling with a 27,000lb external load, demonstrating its sea-to-shore heavy-lift transport capabilities. Sikorsky

The CH-53K claims to be the only sea-based, long range, heavy-lift helicopter in production and will be capable of providing three times the lift of its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion. The CH-53K has heavy-lift capabilities that exceed all other US defence rotary wing-platforms, it is also the only heavy-lifter that is scheduled to remain in production past 2032.