The US Marine Corps has given the green light for its new CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter to enter full-rate production (FRP).
The milestone was achieved following a series of review assessments, live-fire tests, and production readiness reviews.
The FRP allows the CH-53K program to proceed beyond low-rate initial production and increase procurement quantities, according to Naval Air Systems Command.
It would also reportedly raise production efficiency and reduce unit costs.
“We have successfully demonstrated the performance and reliability of this aircraft,” program manager Col. Kate Fleeger said in a press release.
“With FRP, we will continue to build on the strong manufacturing, sustainment, and support that has been established for the CH-53K.”
Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky, which serves as the prime contractor, is expected to increase the helicopter’s production to more than 20 per year following the issuance of the FRP.
The CH-53K King Stallion
Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion was developed to meet the US Marine Corps’ heavy-lift requirements.
It is built to thrive on the modern battlefield and survive in the most austere and remote forward operating bases.
The US Marines said earlier this year that the long-range helicopter provides nearly three times the lift capability of the aging CH-53E.
It could also transport 100 percent of the vertical Marine Air-Ground Task Force and provide logistical support to a widely disaggregated naval force.
The aircraft’s maximum payload capacity is 15.9 tons (15,900 kilograms/35,053 pounds), making it capable of carrying two “up-armored” light armored vehicles and up to 55 military personnel.
The CH-53K is reportedly on schedule to achieve full operational capability by 2029.