The US Navy has instructed Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky to start full-rate production of the new CH-53K King Stallion helicopter, which will eventually replace the CH-53D helicopters used in the US, Israel and other countries.
The CH-53K is a multi-mission helicopter that can carry a 27,000 pound load over 110 nautical miles, more than triple the capacity of the older CH-53E aircraft.
The helicopter will be used to transport armored vehicles, equipment and personnel to support operations deep inland from a sea-based center of operations.
The move will increase production of the helicopters to 20 aircraft per year. A network of over 200 suppliers across 34 states will work on production.
The US Marine Corps' aims to purchase 200 of the helicopters.
“Ramping up production of the most technologically advanced helicopter in the world allows the US Marine Corps to build out its CH-53K King Stallion fleet and support mission success,” said Bill Falk, director of the CH-53K program. “This production authorization stabilizes Sikorsky’s domestic supply chain and is a testament to our enduring partnership with the Marine Corps.”
Israel has bought 12 of the new helicopters
In October, Defense Ministry director-general Amir Eshel visited the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky factories in Connecticut on a working visit and toured the production line of the CH-53K helicopter.
As of October, the Defense Ministry had purchased 12 CH-53K helicopters to replace Israel's aging Yasur helicopter fleet. Israel was the second country, after the US, to purchase the advanced helicopter. The helicopters are supposed to enter service in Israel by 2026.
Used by the 114th and 118th squadrons since 1969, the Yasur is the air force’s primary helicopter used to transport soldiers and equipment. They have been used in a wide variety of missions, including secret operations and search and rescue missions.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.