Lockheed Martin Corp.’s $31 billion King Stallion helicopter program for the U.S. Marines may miss its first key milestone by more than 19 months because of a growing checklist of flaws discovered in development testing.
The Naval Air Systems Command acknowledged that the helicopter designed to carry heavy cargo won’t meet its December target date for initial combat capability. The roster of unresolved technical deficiencies has grown to 106 items from about 94 logged in December, according to Navy documents.
A proposed new date -- between July and September 2021 -- “has not been finalized and
is pending the final decision” on a request before Congress to shift $158 million into the testing program to pay for fixes and more test flights, Greg Kuntz, a spokesman for the command, said in an email.
The latest delays for the King Stallion, which was the first major acquisition program given a go-ahead by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, make it a prime candidate for congressional scrutiny. That questioning may begin during hearings on Navy and Marine Corps aviation before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Wednesday and its House counterpart on Thursday.
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 (12,200 kilograms), according to Lockheed. The Navy’s plans to buy 200 copters for the Marines was a prime motivation for Lockheed’s $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies Corp. in 2015. (end of excerpt)
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