Sikorsky Aircraft has made its first major subsystem supplier award for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53K heavy lift helicopter development program and expects to have completed the entire selection process by the end of this year or early next.
Rockwell Collins will provide the CH-53K avionics management system, which will include an all-new glass cockpit based around five active matrix liquid crystal multifunction displays. The deal also includes provision of a crew alerting system, display management, vehicle management and navigation and communications equipment.
Up to 156 aircraft could be ordered for the USMC to replace the 147 aging CH-53Es, which have been in service for more than 20 years. In April, Sikorsky was awarded a $3 billion system development and demonstration contract for the upgrade, possibly leading to first deliveries to the USMC in 2015.
Sikorsky’s H-53 program manager Dave Haines said the next major supplier decision will be for the engines, in “late August or early September.” All three major engine manufacturers–General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney–have been invited to tender 6,000-shp turboshafts to replace the current 4,750-shp General Electric T64s. The extra power is needed to confer the CH-53K with its 27,000-pounds cargo carrying ability over 110 nm at an altitude of 30,000 feet in hot and high conditions. The CH-53E can lift around 10,000 pounds over the same range.
“We’ll be issuing requests for proposals for airframe, electrical and landing gear systems after that, and then for the fly-by-wire flight control system,” added Haines. International suppliers are being encouraged to compete. “All our contracts are being focused on giving the USMC best value and quality,” he said. “We’re scanning the globe for the best components the industry has to offer.”
Talks being held at Farnborough focus also on the potential requirement by Germany and France for up to 100 heavy lift helicopters. Beyond that, Haines said there may be an international requirement elsewhere for as many as 200 CH-53Ks. A marinized version is also being studied as a possible replacement potential for the U.S. Navy’s MH-53Es.