Spirit AeroSystems announced it has started assembly of the fifth System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps at Spirit’s Wichita, Kan., facility. Major assembly on SDTA five is scheduled to begin in September. Spirit is responsible for the assembly of the entire cockpit and cabin and delivering the complete fuselage to Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.
“We are excited to start on the fifth SDTA CH-53K King Stallion and support a significant upgrade for the warfighter,” said Tony Kondrotis, Spirit AeroSystems vice president of Defense programs. “The lightweight composite structures we are providing to Sikorsky will give the Marine Corps a much-needed additional capability. We look forward to continuing to deliver on this program for many years to come.”
Spirit has received or manufactured nearly 1,500 parts to support major assembly of the next helicopter. Spirit is responsible for the composite cockpit and cabin structure with a separately attached tail section. The lightweight structures support the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter’s capability of conducting an unrefueled mission carrying 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles in high/hot conditions, which is triple the load-carrying capacity of the current CH-53E Super Stallion.
Spirit is one of the world’s leaders in designing and building complex composite structures and has already delivered 11 units.
“The CH-53K program demonstrates Spirit’s capabilities as a supplier of major structures to the defense industry,” said Spirit Senior Vice President of Boeing & Defense Programs Duane Hawkins. “We look forward to the day when this capability is in the hands of the warfighter and they are equipped to carry more cargo in more demanding operational environments and then return home safely.”
Earlier this year, Sikorsky announced the program successfully achieved the Milestone C decision that enables low-rate initial production. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.
Spirit employs about 15,000 people worldwide designing and building complex aerostructures for the world’s most recognizable airplanes. The company has a proven track record of developing commercial best practices and adapting them for use on defense programs.