The Heavy-lift cargo helicopter Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion
The Heavy-lift cargo helicopter Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is on display during the Berlin Air Show in April 2018. Credit: Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock

Connecticut officials applauded a Thursday announcement by Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft which has been awarded a $2.7 billion U.S. Navy contract to build 35 additional CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for the U.S. and Israeli military.

The agreement commits the Lockheed Martin company to build and deliver a total of 27 helicopters from two separate lots for the U.S. Marine Corps as well as eight special ops aircraft for the Israeli Air Force. The manufacturer will begin delivering the helicopters in 2026, according to a press release.

“This contract award for 35 CH-53K helicopters stabilizes Sikorsky’s nationwide supply base, creates additional production efficiencies, and provides the U.S. Marine Corps with transformative 21st century technologies,” Paul Lemmo, president of Sikorsky, said. “Our long-standing partnership led to this best value contract award providing the capability and readiness the Marines need.”

CH-53K are multi-mission, heavy-lift aircraft capable of carrying an external load of 27,000 pounds more than 110 nautical miles, according to the manufacturer. 

The contract announced Thursday represents the largest agreement yet for the King Stallion aircraft, which has already exceeded 1,000 operational flight hours by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Sikorsky press release said. 

The King Stallion contract was welcome news both for Sikorsky, which last year lost a bid to replace its long-serving H-60 Black Hawk helicopter to Texas-based Bell Textron, and to elected officials representing Connecticut and Stratford. 

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the highly skilled Sikorsky workforce and supply chain companies who build the world’s best helicopters,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday. “These 35 aircraft represent a boon both to our national defense and to our state’s economy. I will keep fighting for these contracts to go to Connecticut’s top-notch defense manufacturers.”

In a statement Friday, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said the CH-53K program supported almost 8,000 Connecticut Sikorsky workers.

“The men and women at Sikorsky build the best helicopters in the world and this award is a well-earned endorsement of their hard work. This contract is a win for our national security and for our state, ensuring our Navy has the very best equipment while supporting thousands of good-paying jobs in Connecticut,” Murphy said.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Stratford Republican who serves as senate minority leader, called the award “unprecedented” and the result of cooperation between the manufacturer, the state of Connecticut, and the Teamsters labor union. 

“Connecticut has a rich history as a world leader in flight,” Kelly said. “The best helicopters in the world are made right here, by the most talented workforce. This award is a testament to our local workers and the continued innovation that enables the production of the best goods and services to keep our nation and those who serve it safe. This helicopter will help our Marines save refugees and provide humanitarian aid all around the world.”

Thursday’s CH-53K contract comes on the heels of a Tuesday agreement between Sikorsky and an Indonesian aerospace firm, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, known as PTDI, which will seek to buy up 24 S-70M Black Hawk helicopters.

“This agreement demonstrates our mutual interest with PTDI to provide S-70M Black Hawk helicopters to serve Indonesia’s security needs,” Sikorsky Vice President Jeff White said. “The Black Hawk is designed and built to the toughest military standards, and it can quickly and reliably deliver personnel and supplies to geographically-dispersed populations across a large archipelagic area such as Indonesia.”

According to a Sikorsky press release, officials finalized the agreement when Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto visited the U.S. to discuss efforts to modernize the nation’s military. 

“We are confident that this strategic cooperation between PTDI and Lockheed Martin will result in added values gained for PTDI’s capability in integration, customization, modification and system upgrade for the helicopter’s completion,” Gita Amperiawan, president director at PTDI, said. In a press release.