SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Major structural airframe components for production-representative helicopters are to be produced for Sikorsky Aircraft by Exelis.
The four CH-53K heavy lift aircraft, designated as System Demonstration Test Articles, are to be used by the U.S. Marine Corps for operational evaluations of the new aircraft beginning in 2017.
"Our breadth of composite fabrication expertise, combined with skilled assembly capability, provides our customer with the most affordable solutions," said Mike Blair, vice president and general manager of the Exelis Aerostructures business. "The use of composite technology on the CH-53K helicopter ensures that the weight, durability and affordability objectives of the program are met."
Exelis said it is to fabricate and assemble the composite sponsons, the tail rotor pylon and the horizontal stabilizer of the CH-53K heavy lift helicopters.
Its use of composite materials will help to increase the performance and capability of the aircraft by reducing its weight and fuel consumption, which allows for higher payload capacity and greater flight range, it added.
Exelis said production of the airframe components will take place at its composite design and manufacturing center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Exelis is part of an industry team led by Sikorsky that is assembling prototype CH-53K aircraft for first flight later this year. The Marine Corps expect to stand up the first CH-53K heavy lift helicopter squadron in 2019.
The contract from Sikorsky carries a value of more than $34 million.