The Pentagon is set to review Lockheed Martin’s new heavy lift helicopter this week, and consider whether to purchase the new model for the Marine Corps.
The Defense Acquisition Board is scheduled to meet March 30 to discuss the CH-53K King Stallion cargo transport helicopter, a program that could be worth $29 billion, Bloomberg News reports.
If the board approves continuing the program, the Department of Defense will order 24 King Stallion helicopters out of a total 200 planned. The first contract will order two helicopters capable of hauling 27,000 pounds for 110 nautical miles, Bloomberg reports. The King Stallion helicopter would be the first major defense procurement under new Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
The King Stallion finished initial operational testing in October, and boasts the ability to carry three times the amount of its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion, with less required logistical support.
Lockheed acquired Sikorsky, which makes the King Stallion, as well as the precursor model CH-53E Super Stallion, in 2015 for nearly $9 billion. The CH-53 helicopter line was a key reason for the acquisition, Lockheed officials said at the time.
“Frankly, when we acquired Sikorsky it was the 53K program that drove most of our valuation as to why we wanted to own Sikorsky,” Bruce Tanner, chief financial officer, said. “It was the fact of that aircraft.”
A lot of the profitability of the King Stallion will come from foreign military sales, Lockheed predicts. “From a revenue perspective it is going to be the lion’s share of what we expect from Sikorsky for the next 10 to 15 years, probably, once it gets into production,” Tanner said.
The helicopters could cost $122 million each for the first round of production, which irked members of Congress earlier this month.
“The Marine Corps intends to buy 200 of these aircraft, so that cost growth multiplied times 200 is a heck of a lot of money,” Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas said during a March 10 hearing of a House Armed Services Subcommittee.
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