Rheinmetall has partnered with Sikorsky to jointly offer the CH-53K King Stallion for a German air force requirement for around 60 new heavy lift helicopters against a rival bid from the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.
The partnership combines Sikorsky parent Lockheed Martin’s resources with the German defence technology giant’s local presence.
“We are convinced that together we provide the best possible state-of-the-art aircraft for the German Air Force as successor for the legacy CH-53G fleet," says Armin Papperger, Rheinmetall’s chief executive.
Rheinmetall and Sikorsky plan to announce more German industrial partners in the coming weeks.
So far, Boeing has not announced a locally-based strategic partner to support the CH-47 bid. But Boeing has awarded contracts to build CH-47 components to two German suppliers — Aircraft Phipp Group and COTESA — since last June.
The German government in late December authorised the BAAINBw acquisition agency to begin the procurement process for the heavy lift helicopters. A request for proposals is expected to be released in May, with a contact award set for early 2020.
The competition represents the first head-to-head competition between the US-built King Stallion and Chinook.
The 38,400kg (84,700lb) CH-53K owns a significant advantage over the 22,700kg CH-47F in size and raw lifting power. The latest version of the Chinook, however, offers a more mature background with over a decade in operational service. The CH-53K is scheduled to reach the initial operational capability (IOC) milestone for the US Marine Corps next year.
Meanwhile, the Marines are continuing to expand the operating envelope for the CH-53K. On a 18 January, the King Stallion rose to 100ft and hovered for 10min while carrying an 8,560kg joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV), the USMC announced on 6 February.
A sixth CH-53K joined the Marines’ test fleet in February as a “system demonstration test article”, the service says.