Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $303.97m low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 1 contract for the delivery of CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for the US Marine Corps (USMC).
The company originally received the Milestone C decision from the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) on 4 April, which led to allocation of the LRIP funding.
The deal was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and will require Lockheed Martin's subsidiary Sikorsky to supply two LRIP aircraft, in addition to spares and logistical support to the USMC.
USMC NAVAIR Heavy Lift Helicopters PMA-261 programme manager colonel Hank Vanderborght said: “We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed.
“This incredible capability will revolutionise the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical throughput into that battlespace.”
Assembly of the aircraft will take place at the company's headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2020.
The USMC intends to procure a total of 200 CH-53K aircraft, including six that are currently under contract and scheduled for delivery from next year.
CH-53K King Stallion helicopters feature three times the lift capability of the preceding model, the CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft.
They are also equipped with an external hook system to lift three independent external loads concurrently.
The aircraft's heavy-lift capabilities provide the USMC with enhanced mission flexibility and efficiency in delivering combat power, which will be used to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as offer humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.
Image: The CH-53K helicopter on a test flight at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.