King Stallion helicopter

Washington – Connecticut lawmakers on Friday praised the signing of a new contract between the Navy and Sikorsky to build an additional dozen “King Stallion” heavy-lift helicopters, a deal valued at $1.3 billion.

The entire Connecticut delegation issued a statement saying the new contract to produce more CH-53 King Stallion helicopters “is great news both for our Armed Services and Connecticut’s workforce.”

But there was a time Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky’s parent company, considered building the massive, mighty King Stallion somewhere else, possibly Florida or South Carolina. Lockheed Martin also considered moving Sikorsky’s Stratford headquarter out of Connecticut.

In 2016, former Gov. Dannel Malloy cut a deal with Lockheed Martin to produce the new generation of   Sikorsky heavy-lift helicopters in Connecticut, pledging $220 million in financial incentives from the state. Sikorsky’s unionized workforce also agreed to givebacks.

The Malloy administration said the deal would “retain and grow approximately 8,000 jobs at Sikorsky Aircraft until 2032, keep the Sikorsky headquarters here in Connecticut, and increase investments in in-state suppliers.”

Over the next two decades, the Navy hopes to purchase 200 CH53K King Stallion helicopters, which are used by the Marines. The total cost of the program is expected to exceed $30 billion.

Congress provided funding to build eight of the heavy-lift helicopters last year.  The Pentagon asked Congress to provide money to purchase six additional King Stallions in the 2020 budget year.

The CH-53K is designed to carry 27,000 pounds of payload  — three times as much as the heavy lift helicopter it is replacing — over a distance of up to 110 nautical miles. It is designed to be the most powerful helicopter in the Pentagon’s fleet.

But there have been problems with the King Stallion program.

Several design deficiencies have delayed operational testing, and those helicopters may not be delivered to the Marine Corps until at least 2021, according to the most recent U.S. Defense Department Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s annual report.

While the new contract is good news for Sikorsky, Congress – with its authority over defense funding — will determine how quickly the next group of King Stallions are rolled off Sikorsky’s production line.

“We will continue to fight for additional funding – and the high-skilled, good-paying jobs in Connecticut that these investments support – to ensure the Marine Corps gets every CH-53K they need for to complete their mission in the years ahead,” Connecticut’s lawmakers said in their joint statement.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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