ITT Delivers First Composite Assembly Of Sikorsky CH-53K Helicopter


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ITT Delivers First Composite Assembly Of Sikorsky CH-53K Helicopter

By Daniel Baxter

November 20, 2010 - ITT Corporation has delivered its first major structural subassemblies for the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. This delivery culminates nearly three years of advanced design, development, testing and manufacturing to provide sponsors for the CH-53K helicopter.

These assemblies represent significant technology advancement by applying composite materials versus traditional metals to military aircraft that operate in harsh environments.

Sponsors attach to each side of a helicopter fuselage and house important components, such as landing gear, fuel, and other mechanical and electrical assemblies without compromising interior passenger or cargo space. Each sponsor is 25 feet long by 4 feet wide and 5 feet high.


This delivery supports the first prototype aircraft, with future potential to support 200 aircraft during the life of the program. The CH-53K helicopter program is using proven and mature technologies that will significantly expand the fleet?s capability in comparison to its predecessor, the CH-53E helicopter, by tripling the aircraft?s lift in high and hot environments while reducing support and maintenance costs.  

In addition, the composite sponsors are designed to be significantly more resilient to the environmental conditions, ballistics and in-flight stress, while allowing for increased cabin width without a change in vehicle footprint.  

To meet the demanding weight, durability and affordability objectives of the CH-53K helicopter program, ITT is employing the latest composite design and manufacturing technologies for these important flight structures, including electronic model control, laser-ply projection, five-axis computer numerically controlled machining, automated trimming and drilling, as well as laser and ultrasonic inspection of all subassemblies.  

?We?ve brought the best of our composite technology and experience to produce a stronger, more durable and operationally flexible aircraft to help the Marines perform their critical missions,? said Jim Barber, vice president for ITT?s Integrated Structures business area. ?ITT is committed to growing our composites business so we can serve our customers? needs.? Production will be accomplished at ITT?s Electronic Systems facility in Salt Lake City, Utah.


The Sikorsky CH-53K Super Stallion is a large, heavy-lift cargo helicopter currently being developed by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The design features three 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider cabin than previous CH-53 variants. It will be the largest and heaviest helicopter in the U.S. military. 

The US Marine Corps had been planning to upgrade most of their CH-53Es to keep them in service, but this plan stalled. Sikorsky then proposed a new version, originally the "CH-53X", and in April 2006, the USMC signed a contract for 156 aircraft as the "CH-53K". The Marines are planning to start retiring CH-53Es in 2009 and need new helicopters very quickly. Flight testing of the CH-53K is expected to begin in 2011.


The CH-53K is a general redesign of the CH-53E. The main improvements are new engines and cockpit layout. The CH-53K will have over twice the lift capacity and radius of action of the CH-53E, and a wider cargo hold to allow it to carry a HMMWV vehicle internally.  

However, the CH-53K will feature new stubby composite sponsors to cut overall width, giving the helicopter a narrower footprint for shipboard operations. It will also be equipped with a new composite rotor blade system, with technology similar to that currently found on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. 

The CH-53K will use the General Electric GE38-1B engine. This engine beat out the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW150 and a derivative of the Rolls-Royce AE 1107C-Liberty that powers the V-22 Osprey.

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