The Naval Air Systems Command awarded a $435 million cost-plus-incentive contract to Sikorsky to build four production-representative CH-53K heavy lift helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps on May 30.
These four aircraft will be the System Demonstration Test Articles that the Marines will test during operational evaluation.
The SDTA contract represents an exciting and significant milestone in our program,î said Col. Robert Pridgen, the Heavy Lift Helicopters program manager for NAVAIR. ìWe are well on our way to making the CH-53K a reality for our Marines and our naval fleet. The capability this aircraft brings, in every clime and place, is critical to sustaining the future missions of the Marine Air/Ground Task Force. The future of heavy lift is bright.
The four SDTA aircraft are based on the configuration of the fourth and final flight test aircraft currently being assembled on the prototype production line,î said Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorskyís CH-53K Program Vice President. ìWe truly appreciate the high level of confidence the Navy and Marine Corps have shown to the CH-53K team as we move forward with this important next phase of the program.
The Navy has included the SDTA helicopters as an additional contract line item under the existing $3.5 billion System Development and Demonstration contract initially awarded to Sikorsky in April 2006. The contract schedule requires Sikorsky to deliver the first SDTA aircraft in 39 months, and the fourth by the end of March 2017, when the Marines will begin operational evaluation. The contractís fee arrangement incentivizes Sikorsky to deliver early. Sikorsky will perform final assembly of the SDTA aircraft at the companyís Florida Assembly and Flight Operations facility in West Palm Beach.
To date, Sikorsky has delivered two of the seven SDD CH-53K aircraft ñ the Ground Test Vehicle and the Static Test Article ñ into the test program, and is finalizing assembly of the four flight test aircraft and the Fatigue Test Article. First flight of a CH-53K prototype aircraft is expected in late 2014.