Sikorsky arrives at Paris with a simple message: if you want a 21st century heavy-lift helicopter, then the only solution is the CH-53K King Stallion.

Although France is not considering the platform, Germany remains a key battleground to securing an export order for the CH-53K.

CH-53K ILA - Messe Berlin

Messe Berlin

Berlin is seeking a successor to its fleet of aged CH-53Gs – essentially a D-model aircraft – with Sikorsky facing competition from Boeing and its CH-47F Chinook.

Dan Schultz, Sikorsky president, says he is "very excited" by Berlin's Schwerer Transporthubschrauber contest, which is expected to formally begin this summer.

However, the two aircraft on offer are hugely different. While the three-engined CH-53K offers a maximum take-off weight of almost 40t, the tandem-rotor Chinook is smaller, at 22.6t.

But the Boeing aircraft would be cheaper to acquire and operate, and offers interoperability with a large number of European and NATO countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and USA.

Schultz argues that the "real question" is whether, when a helicopter may be operated for up to 40 years, "you should buy a helicopter that is a 40-year-old design? I just don't understand that model.

"You wouldn't buy a television today that was designed in the 1980s," he says.

Schultz points to the CH-53K's clean-sheet design – down to small details like improved cockpit ergonomics – and performance, while still being able to operate within the same footprint as the D-model aircraft.

While there will be no local final assembly if Berlin selects the CH-53K, Schultz points to the team of German companies Sikorsky has assembled to participate in the programme, including engine specialist MTU Aero Engines and Rheinmetall.

Many of these will be offered the opportunity for additional work on the King Stallion, beyond that required for the German helicopters.

"The key is not just what you work on today, but we want people to be part of the whole fleet and that's a very powerful offer.

"Nobody that competes against us can match that," he says.

Sikorsky is developing the CH-53K for the US Marine Corps and received a $1.3 billion from the contract in May for 12 helicopters from the US Department of Defense covering the second and third lots of low-rate initial production.

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