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Sun, Jun 26, 2011

Sikorsky Assembling CH-53K Helicopter Ground Test Vehicle

First Of Five Prototypes Used To Develop Next Marine Corps Heavy-Lift Helicopter

Sikorsky has begun assembly of the CH-53K Helicopter Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) at Sikorsky’s Florida Assembly and Flight Operations (FAFO) facility in West Palm Beach, marking progress toward the system validation test phase of the Heavy Lift Replacement Program.

The GTV is the first of five prototype aircraft that will be built at the FAFO facility, under a $3 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract to develop a heavy lift helicopter replacement for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter. When the GTV prototype is assembled, it will be delivered to the Sikorsky Development Flight Center, located adjacent to the FAFO facility, to undergo ground-flight testing in early 2012. First flight is expected to occur during fiscal year 2014. The new aircraft program is planned to include production of more than 200 aircraft.

“When you see the components of the prototype aircraft being assembled, you begin to envision the power and capability that will be delivered with the CH-53K helicopter,” said CH-53K Helicopter Program Manager David Zack. “The main rotor hub and transmission on this new machine weigh 15,000 pounds – as much as a Black Hawk helicopter – and will carry nearly triple the payload of its predecessor, the CH-53E helicopter. It is an awesome sight to see this aircraft coming together after several years of designing, planning and coordination.”

“This program is well beyond design and planning, and the Ground Test Vehicle is in position four of the assembly line. We are looking forward to realizing the benefits of our technological advancements to the build process, along with physical integration of the subsystems throughout the build and ground test process,” Zack added.

CH-53K Artist's Rendering

Sikorsky opened the FAFO assembly center in March 2011, establishing a prototype assembly line for the new CH-53K Helicopter Operations Center. The state-of-the-art assembly facility provides wireless data connections to all operator plasma data screens and introduces the use of digital operation sheets to aid technicians through the four-position assembly line process. The facility is also outfitted with overhead power and air dropdowns, new aircraft work stands and overhead cranes to support aircraft final assembly and rotor head assembly operations.

A total of five SDD prototype aircraft will be built at the FAFO facility and participate in the ground/flight test program, with two additional airframe ground test articles to be assembled at Sikorsky’s main manufacturing plant in Stratford, CT. Once assembled, the ground test articles will undergo a series of structural tests ensuring safe operations of the Engineering Development Model (EDM) flight vehicles.

The CH-53K SDD program comprises major subcontracts valued at more than $1.1B.



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