Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky [LMT] delivered the third Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) and seventh overall CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter to the Marine Corps, the company said on July 14.

The company underscored this was the first CH-53K from the Lot 2 LRIP contract awarded by the Navy in 2019 and was built at the Sikorsky digital factory.

This helicopter will join the six currently in operation at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C. 

The CH-53K is a heavy lift helicopter capable of nearly three times the lift capacity of its predecessor, the legacy CH-53E helicopter. The Marine Corps has boasted it can transport the full amount of the vertical Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The CH-53K has an engine with 57 percent more horsepower and 63 percent fewer parts than the CH-53E.

The Marine Corps is planning to deploy the first CH-53K Marine Expeditionary Unit detachment in fiscal year 2024.

The service said the helicopter reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in April along with an initial operational test and evaluation period with over 3,000 mishap-free hours flown in various terrains and environments. The Navy and Marine Corps plan to ultimately procure 200 total CH-53Ks, including four earlier procured system demonstration test vehicles (Defense Daily, April 25).

Last year, a Sikorsky official said the company was delivering the helicopters at a rate of once every three months and expected full-rate production to increase the rate to two per month. The company expected international orders to then increase that rate to three per month, with capacity to build 36 CH-53Ks per year (Defense Daily, Aug. 4, 2021).

“Our nationwide supply chain supports the active production line as we prepare to deliver two more CH-53K helicopters later this year. We look forward to continuing our progress toward next year’s full rate production decision,” Bill Falk, director of the Sikorsky CH-53K program, said in a statement.

The company noted that earlier this year it secured a contract with Israel to build 12 CH-53Ks under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement. In 2021 the State Department approved a potential $3.4 billion deal for Israel to buy up to 18 CH-53Ks to replace their legacy CH-53D Yasur fleet (Defense Daily, July 30, 2021).