STRATFORD, CT-Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. formally opened its new Precision Components Technology Center, launching a new path toward strategic competitive excellence beginning with the manufacture of CH-53K heavy lift helicopter components. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.
The center will produce major dynamic components of the CH-53K helicopter such as rotating and stationary swashplates, main and tail rotor hubs, and main rotor sleeves. It will showcase the magnitude of the CH-53K helicopter and the unique production challenges presented by its size and technological complexity. Forgings to be machined in the center, for example, will be twice the size of the largest forging produced at the facility to date.
Of UTC's total investment of $130 million in the program, Sikorsky has committed more than $20 million to the Precision Components Technology Center.
"Sikorsky's investment in this new technology center is further evidence of the company's commitment to the CH-53K helicopter program," said Mark Cherry, vice president, Marine Corps Programs. "The heavy lift mission is critical; the size and complexity of the CH-53K helicopter's critical parts necessitated a center dedicated to its production and design iterations as we continue on our path to first flight. We expect the technology center to leverage a number of the manufacturing improvements incorporated in the development of this aircraft, including identifying critical part characteristics to align with manufacturing process capability."
The center currently employs eight personnel.
The Precision Components Technology Center was designed to allow the development of new product lines with "zero setup time" and quick changeover from one component to another. The equipment in the center has the capability to produce any precision rotor and drive system dynamic component including legacy configurations.
Mick Maurer, senior vice president of Sikorsky Operations, said the center's primary focus will be to support the dynamic components of the CH-53K System Development and Demonstration program, but the facility also was created with an eye toward the future.
"The grand opening of the Precision Components Technology Center marks a significant program milestone that demonstrates our commitment to the U.S. Marine Corps and the development of the next generation CH-53K heavy lift helicopter. As we expand our global footprint, Sikorsky continues to invest in state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities that offer a unique competitive advantage in the advancement of flight-critical dynamic component technologies," Maurer said.
Sikorsky Aircraft received a $3 billion System Development and Demonstration contract on April 5, 2006, to develop a replacement for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E heavy lift helicopter. The new aircraft program is planned to include production of more than 200 new aircraft. Development money and production quantities will be determined year-by-year over the life of the program based on funding allocations set by Congress and Pentagon acquisition priorities.
Its predecessor, the three-engine Sikorsky CH-53E SUPER STALLION(TM) helicopter, is the largest, most powerful marinized helicopter in the world. It is deployed from Marine Corps amphibious assault ships and land bases to transport personnel and equipment and to carry external (sling) cargo loads.
The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as the CH-53E aircraft, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under "hot high" ambient conditions. The CH-53K helicopter's maximum gross weight (MGW) with internal loads is 74,000 pounds compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E aircraft. The CH-53K helicopter's MGW with external loads is 88,000 pounds as compared to 73,500 for the CH-53E helicopter.
Features of the CH-53K helicopter include: a joint interoperable glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and reduced operation and support costs.