The U.S. government signed off on Sikorsky making four of its new military cargo helicopters for Israel, an expected approval that could have a big impact on the Lockheed Martin subsidiary’s headquarters factory in Stratford.
Israel plans to add six CH-53K helicopters to replace its existing fleet of nearly two-dozen Sikorsky CH-53D Yasur helicopters over time, with an option for six more if it sees the need.
The announcement comes as Gov. Ned Lamont and state business leaders plan to embark on a weeklong trip to Israel to promote Connecticut economic development.
Sikorsky has started making the CH-53K for the U.S. Marine Corps under the name King Stallion, with the service seeking approval for 200 of the aircraft. The King Stallion is a far more powerful helicopter than the CH-53E, and is the largest ever fielded by the U.S. military.
Sikorsky was awarded the contract over Boeing, which offered its CH-47 Chinook that is used by the U.S. Army to transport cargo and troops. Speaking on a conference call last month, Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet called it “an important international opportunity” for Sikorsky, with the company also working to generate interest in the helicopter for Germany.
Israel is paying $372 million for the first four helicopters — an average of $93 million each. That is roughly 15 times the cost of a Black Hawk helicopter.
Including ongoing support, spare engines and other parts, Israel has earmarked as much as $2.4 billion for the CH-53K program.
The CH-53K is the largest of three major programs Sikorsky is counting on to keep production lines busy in Stratford and other locales in the coming decade, along with a new fleet of White House helicopters and new helicopters for the U.S. Air Force to perform rescue missions.
Longer term, Sikorsky is vying with Bell to produce a utility helicopter replacement for the Army Black Hawk and variant models like the Seahawk used by the U.S. Navy; and an armed helicopter the Army wants for reconnaissance and combat operations.
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