May 20 (UPI) -- Sikorsky has been awarded a $1.2 billion contract to deliver 12 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The contract with the Lockheed Martin subsidiary, issued by the Navy and announced Friday by the Department of Defense, will include programmatic support, logistics support and peculiar support equipment.
Lot II and Lot III low-rate initial production on the 12 aircraft is expected to be completed by December 2023, the Pentagon said.
First deployment of the aircraft is expected sometime in 2023 or 2024. Delays in testing -- Sikorsky has flown more than 1,400 test hours on the craft -- pushed back the start of production, but both the company and the Navy say deployment is on schedule.
The Navy expects to eventually buy 200 of the updated King Stallions.
Sikorsky said in a press release that it has updated its supply chain to start ramping up production of the helicopter.
"We have transformed our facility for the future and implemented a model for all future helicopter programs," Sikorsky program director Bill Falk said in a press release. "These investments in systems, personnel, and our facilities have elevated Sikorsky's manufacturing technology and capabilities to meet production requirements of the CH-53K for domestic and international customers."
Sikorsky describes the King Stallion as "the modern solution for true heavy lift" on its website.
The King Stallion will be the same size as its predecessor, the Super Stallion, or CH-53E. But it will be able to externally lift 27,000 pounds, which is "more than triple the external load carrying capacity" of the CH-53E at an altitude of 3,000 feet, according to a company fact sheet.
"The CH-53K helicopter has been designed and built to the exacting standards of the U.S. Marine Corps and will serve as its critical land and sea based logistics connector," Sikorsky said. "The new heavy lifter will allow the U.S. Marine Corps and international militaries to move troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher altitude terrain, more quickly and effectively than ever before."
Forty-five percent of work on the new contract will be performed at Sikorsky's plant in Stratford, Conn., 12 percent in Wichita, Kan., 5.7 percent in Salt Lake City and the rest completed at various locations in the United States, Canada and England.
Naval fiscal 2018 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $509 million and 2019 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $617 million will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year.
Sikorsky has been building various versions of the aircraft for more than 50 years, including the initial CH-53A.