Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Sikorsky has been awarded a $107 million contract for early work on the next six CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The contract, announced Monday by the Department of Defense, covers long lead items for six low-rate initial production lot 4 helicopters, with work expected to be completed by August 2020.
Sikorsky will conduct work on the lot 4 helicopters entirely at its Stratford, Conn., facility.
The new order is the fourth group of King Stallions ordered by the Navy, coming three months after the Lockheed Martin subsidiary inked a $1.2 billion contract for 12 lot 2 and lot 3 low rate initial production aircraft.
The King Stallion is the next version of the Super Stallion, or CH-53E. While it is roughly the same size, the upgraded helicopter will be able to lift triple the load of its predecessor -- 27,000 pounds -- at an altitude of 3,000 feet.
The overall King Stallion program is behind schedule, officials say, yet they expect the aircraft to remain on schedule for sea trials in 2020, initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 and their first deployment coming sometime in 2023 or 2024.
The Marine Corps expects to acquire 200 King Stallions over the life of the program to replace the branch's fleet of CH-53E heavy-life helicopters.