The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is currently appraising Sikorsky’s proposal to build four pre-production CH-53K Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters.
Col Robert Pridgen, program manager at the US Marine Corps (USMC) made the announcement, stating that NAVAIR received the proposal in March 2012, and will soon award a contract after the evaluation is completed.
The aircraft will be "fleet-representative", and used for operational evaluations.
The CH-53K is expected to get into service in 2019, and the US Marine Corps plans to purchase about 200 of the three-engined type aircraft.
Col Pridgen said although initial plans were to purchase 156 aircraft, the USMC extended the program and increased the aircraft order. He also stated that the USMC plans to run the three-engined CH-53E until it is replaced by the new "Kilo" model. USMC will retire the remaining twin-engined CH-53Ds at the end of the year.
The "Kilo" model features new design and state-of-the-art technology. However, the launch of the “Kilo” model will be preceded by integration testing on a ground test vehicle that is currently being developed at Sikorsky's Florida facilities, and will be completed in 2013.
The test vehicle will feature all the essential systems of an aircraft, namely cockpit, rotor head, composite blades and hydraulics. Several sub-systems are currently being tested in advance, as part of preparing installation in the ground test airframe. After the new helicopter has completed all the tests, it will be cleared for flight.
Further tests will be carried out to ensure the aircraft is suitable for fleet use.