Spirit AeroSystems has delivered the third fuselage section to Sikorsky for the US Marine Corps' (USMC) CH-53K 'King Stallion' heavy-lift helicopter programme.
Delivery comes under the CH-53K programme's system demonstration and test article (SDTA) contract.
The new composite-skinned fuselage includes an integrated cockpit and cabin structure with a separately attached tail section.
Spirit Defense Programmes senior vice-president Phil Anderson said: "Spirit AeroSystems is pleased to be a major supplier to a new-generation, heavy-lift helicopter capability for the Marine Corps.
"The strong, lightweight composite structures we are providing to Sikorsky will in turn give the Marine Corps a much needed increase in payload capability."
With this third fuselage, Sikorsky will be able to start assembling the third of four SDTA aircraft.
Under a contract signed with the US Navy in 2013, Sikorsky is responsible for assembling and delivering four SDTA aircraft to the USMC by 2017, for the operational evaluation.
The USMC will employ the four SDTA aircraft to assess its capability to carry 27,000lb more than 110nm under 'high-hot' ambient conditions. They will replace the existing CH-53E Super Stallion models.
The new helicopters will feature enhanced payload, range, and hot-high capabilities. They are expected to deliver reliable and cost-effective, low-maintenance, and survivable solutions in all conditions.
USMC aims to acquire 200 CH-53K helicopters. The current four SDTA helicopters are part of the existing $3.5bn system development and demonstration (SDD) contract initially awarded to Sikorsky in April 2006.
Spirit is expected to deliver the final SDTA fuselage unit to Sikorsky later this year.
Image: The new composite-skinned fuselage section structure of the heavy-lift helicopter. Photo: courtesy of Spirit AeroSystems.