Spirit AeroSystems celebrates Sikorsky CH-35K milestone

December 17, 2010
The fuselage assembly, which includes composite cockpit and cabin sections designed and built by Spirit, was joined to a supplier-provided aft transition empennage section earlier in the month.

"Rolling out this joined fuselage signifies a vital milestone on this program," said Kelley Gross, Spirit program director. "This event demonstrates Spirit's already established expertise as a composite assembly manufacturer as well as our far-reaching capabilities in the defense market."

"This rollout of the first CH-53K helicopter fuselage is a distinct milestone signaling the CH-53K helicopter is close to becoming a reality for the U.S. Marine Corps and our country. The successful assembly of this fuselage is the result of a successful partnership between Spirit, Sikorsky and our NAVAIR customer," Joseph Santiso, Program Manager, CH-53K Airframe Integrated Product Team.

The cabin section is comprised of five composite skins, a composite floor and roof beams, aluminum framework, and a titanium transmission structure. Its dimensions are approximately 30 ft. in length, 10 ft. wide and 8.5 ft. high.

The cockpit section is mostly made of a composite structure including the canopy framework, skins, bulkheads and floors. The cockpit assembly dimensions are approximately 8 ft. in length, 8.5 ft. high and 10 ft. wide.

"The cabin-cockpit roll-out marks a significant milestone in fulfillment of the U.S. Marine Corps' Heavy Lift requirement. The continuing development of the CH-53K is reliant on a broad base of suppliers. Spirit AeroSystems is a major partner within the supplier base," said Captain Rick Muldoon, CH-53K Program Manager.

In 2007, Sikorsky awarded a contract to Spirit AeroSystems to design, fabricate, procure and build seven units of the sections for the CH-53K helicopter in connection with Sikorsky's Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract with the Navy. The seven test units are comprised of one ground test vehicle, one static test article, four engineering development model flight test vehicles, and one fatigue test article.

In 2008, Sikorsky also awarded a contract to Spirit for joining the joining of the aft transition section to Spirit's combined cabin and cockpit section. This contract was also in connection with the SDD contract. With the join of this section, Spirit will deliver a complete CH-53K helicopter fuselage to Sikorsky's Florida Assembly & Flight Operations facility in West Palm Beach, FL, where CH-53K experimental aircraft assembly and test activities will take place.

Spirit's CH-53K SDD program schedule is expected to run through 2012 and includes design, development and test activities, in addition to fabrication and assembly. The low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase of the program is expected to begin with the delivery of the first LRIP aircraft in FY 2017.

The CH-53K helicopter is a dual-piloted, multi-engine helicopter that will provide the U.S. Marine Corps with improved heavy lift capability, reduced operating costs, and state-of-the-art interoperability. The CH-53K helicopter is designed to be a safe, survivable, and reliable weapon system once placed into service. The helicopter will be capable of operating day or night, in battlefield conditions and adverse worldwide climates, while fulfilling U.S. Marine Corps missions for movement of cargo and equipment, transportation of troops, and amphibious assault and operations ashore.

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