Sikorsky CH-53K Passes next test
August 5, 2010, Stratford, Conn. - Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation announced Tuesday the successful completion of the CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Critical Design Review (CDR) event, signaling the program is ready to proceed to assembly, test and evaluation.
By Carey Fredericks
The joint Sikorsky/Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) CH-53K helicopter program team hosted a weeklong meeting in late July to gather stakeholders and key collaborators from government and industry for an in-depth aircraft design review. At the review, the CH-53K team successfully demonstrated that the design meets the system requirements, setting the stage for the next phase of the program. Review participants included members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, NAVAIR, Sikorsky Aircraft, and 21 major industrial partners who displayed component exhibits that augmented technical presentations.
Over the past four years, the CH-53K helicopter team has successfully completed numerous major reviews, including the System Requirements Review (SRR), System Functional Review (SFR), System Preliminary Design Review (PDR), 77 supplier-level Critical Design Reviews (CDR’s), 64 supplier and internal software reviews, and 16 sub-system CDRs.
David Cohen, chairman of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Technical Review Board (TRB) emphasized the Board’s approval with a “resounding yes,” adding that “the CH-53K helicopter program is ready for full-scale development and manufacture of the test aircraft.”
Completion of the System CDR event demonstrates that the CH-53K Helicopter Program continues to build on its strong design foundation. NAVAIR CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter Integrated Product Team Co-lead, Lt. Col. Hank Vanderborght noted, “We have a program that sits squarely on solid technical ground, and our team continues to work diligently as we mitigate all schedule and cost risks.”
Over 93 per cent of the design has been released for manufacturing. System-level performance projections indicate all seven Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) will be achieved with adequate risk mitigation margin built-in for subsequent phases of the program. The team is ready to move into fabrication and assembly of test articles, component qualification, and flight test.
“This successful CDR confirms the program is on the right track and is a significant step forward for the CH-53K helicopter program,” said John Johnson, Sikorsky Program Manager for the CH-53K helicopter program. “Sikorsky and NAVAIR are well aligned in this collaborative effort, and this CDR brings us closer to delivering a vital tool to the U.S. Marine Corps’ future heavy lift mission.”
Sikorsky has been building CH-53 helicopters for the Marine Corps since the CH-53A aircraft was introduced in 1963. The heavy lift mission is currently performed by the Sikorsky CH-53E SUPER STALLIONTM helicopter and CH-53D SEA STALLION helicopter models that have logged a cumulative total of 1.37 million flight hours in over 40 years.
Sikorsky Aircraft received a $3 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract on April 5, 2006 to develop a replacement for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E heavy lift helicopter. The new aircraft program is planned to include production of more than 200 aircraft. Currently, the CH-53K helicopter is in the SDD phase with all of the major subcontracts awarded and valued at over $1.1B.
“This milestone is a turning point for our program,” said Mike Torok, Sikorsky Vice-President and Chief Engineer for Marine Corps Programs, and Chief Engineer for the CH-53K. “The final design definition, which meets NAVAIR and USMC requirements, is concluding, and now we move on to the test and verification part of the program.
“Parts are being made throughout the supply base and at our new Precision Component Technology Center; test facilities are being fabricated and prepped for installation in our recently opened ground test facility; the integrated simulation facility is marching toward a late 2010 opening, already having received the first increment of software for the aircraft; and the final assembly facility in West Palm Beach is being prepared to start building the ground and flight vehicles early next year. It’s time now to prove out our design and show that this helicopter system will indeed meet the war fighting requirements of the USMC and give them exceptional mission performance from a platform that is affordable and supportable for many years to come,” Torok added.
The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under “hot/high” ambient conditions. The CH-53E helicopter is currently the largest, most powerful marinized helicopter in the world. It is deployed from Marine Corps amphibious assault ships to transport personnel and equipment and to carry external (sling) cargo loads.
The CH-53K helicopter’s maximum gross weight (MGW) with internal loads is 74,000 pounds compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E aircraft. The CH-53K’s MGW with external loads is 88,000 pounds as compared to 73,500 for the CH-53E helicopter.