Lockheed Martin Corp.'s $31 billion King Stallion helicopter program for the U.S. Marine Corps is likely to miss its key milestone — initial combat capability a year from now — because of technical flaws found in development testing.
Resolving the problems is forcing a major restructuring of the program that's "taking longer than planned" as "additional test failures or issues" are discovered during flight tests, the Defense Contract Management Agency said in a statement.
The King Stallion, designated CH-53K, will be the same size as its predecessor, the Super Stallion, but will be able to haul almost triple the cargo, lifting 27,000 pounds, according to Lockheed. The Navy's plans to buy 200 of the copters for the Marines was a prime motivation for the contractor's $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies Corp. in 2015.
Among the flaws discovered so far: exhaust gas sucked back into the engine, limited service life for parts for the main rotor gearbox, deficiencies with the tail rotor and driveshaft and late deliveries of redesigned parts.
The Defense Contract Management Agency estimates flight testing won't be complete until May 2020, or five months after the scheduled time to declare the helicopter has an initial combat capability. (end of excerpt)
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