Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky has secured a contract from the US Navy to manufacture nine more CH-53K King Stallion helicopters.

According to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the contract also has an additional option for another nine CH-53K helicopters.

The aircraft will provide the required heavy-lift capability to support US Marine Corps’ (USMC) operations, such as the expeditionary heavy-lift assault transport of armoured vehicles, equipment, and personnel.

As per the contract, which is a low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5, Sikorsky will deliver the aircraft from 2024.

These will be part of the 200 aircraft Program of Record for the USMC and the Lot 5 award brings the total to 33 CH-53K production aircraft.

In October last year, Sikorsky secured a contract from the US Navy to build six more CH-53K under Lot 4 King Stallion helicopters.

PMA-261 heavy lift helicopter programme manager colonel Jack Perrin said: “This contract award is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to execute this critical program in support of the US Marine Corps’ heavy lift requirement.”

The Lot 5 contract includes $878.7m for nine helicopters, as well as an option for a Lot 6 contract that would buy nine more CH-53Ks for $852.5m.

It brings the cost of Sikorsky’s part of the helicopter down to $97.6m each, and the Lot 6 contract would reduce that to $94.7m per each helicopter.

The programme will start initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) next month in support of the USMC’s declaration of initial operational capability (IOC).

Perrin added: “As the long-range logistic support backbone for the US Marine Corps, it is essential that we get this critical capability to the fleet as quickly and as affordably as possible.”

In May 2019, Sikorsky secured a contract worth $1.13bn from the US Naval Air Systems Command to build 12 production CH-53K King Stallion helicopters.