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Sikorsky has opened the assembly facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, where it will build five prototypes for the CH-53K heavylift helicopter development program. The building, formerly home to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, is adjacent to Sikorsky's development flight center, where the CH-53Ks will be tested.Photo: SikorskySikorsky was awarded a $3 billion contract in April 2006 to develop the CH-53K to replace the US Marine Corps' CH-53Es. First flight has since slipped by two years, and is now planned for fiscal 2013, while initial operational capability in now 2018 -- a delay of 40 months from the original goal of September 2015, the US Navy says. At the same time, the Marine Corps has increased the number it plans to buy from 156 to more than 200.The new-design CH-53K is a heavy helicopter. Although it has the same shipboard footprint as the CH-53E, its maximum gross weight is significantly higher -- 74,000lb (vs 69,750lb) with internal load and 88,000lb (vs 73,500lb) with external load. At 27,000lb over 110nm, its lifting capability is almost three times that of the E model.
ar99, CH-53K, rotorcraft
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