First Of Five Prototypes Used To Develop Next Marine Corps
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
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
“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.