WASHINGTON DC, The United States – The Pentagon believes that the new US Navy’s heavy-duty helicopter, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, valued at $144 million per unit, is more expensive than the F-35A Lightning II fighter.
Despite the high cost, the helicopter may not start up as soon as it presents a series of technical problems, according to The National Interest magazine.
In the face of this situation, Naval Air Systems Command spokesman Greg Kuntz said that the discovery of technical problems occurred later than expected and that the restructuring of the program is “taking longer than planned”, as “failures or additional problems “were discovered during the flight tests.
Recently, a Pentagon report detailed the numerous structural problems in the fuselage of the aircraft. According to the document, these problems are aggravated by the lack of parts needed to maintain the aircraft, which means a “high risk” for the fuselage.
Among the most serious problems discovered so far are the main rotor gearbox deficiency, the unreliable speed indicator, the overheating of the essential propulsion elements and the irregularities in the tail rotor propellers.
The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter program, valued at approximately $31 billion for the US Marine Corps, is likely to lose its initial combat capability expected in a year’s time due to problems during the development tests.
The US Navy is working with Lockheed to “reassess and restructure the program’s detailed timeline, including lengthening completion” of the current phase of development, Kuntz points out.
The restructuring of the program includes solutions to technical challenges and exhaust gas re-management problem, however, the Navy “has not yet made a formal determination” on a new initial date of combat capability, Kuntz said.
The CH53-K will be of the same size as its predecessor, however, it will be able to carry almost triple the load, raising 27,000 pounds (12 tons).
The defense contract management agency estimates that the flight tests are not complete by May 2020, which means a delay of five months to declare the helicopter to have initial combat capability.