Sikorsky’s Storied Heavy-Lift Legacy in Germany

Sikorsky’s Storied Heavy-Lift Legacy in Germany

Experienced STH CH-53K Industry Team Ready To Support Next-Generation Heavy Lift for the German Armed Forces

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, has a long history of meeting the air mobility needs of the German Armed Forces. Now, as the STH competition progresses, the manufacturer has an all-new offering in the CH-53K “King Stallion” heavy-lift helicopter.

For more than 50 years, the German Armed Forces have operated CH-53G helicopters in Germany and during missions all over the world. To this day, the German Armed Forces’ remaining 70 aircraft provide airlift capabilities including troop and cargo transport, personnel recovery operations, and humanitarian, medevac, aerial firefighting, and disaster relief missions.

Following a competition against Boeing’s Chinook in 1968, the CH-53G, originally designed for the U.S. Marine Corps, was procured by Germany in 1969.

Following some four years of testing and evaluation, Germany chose the Sikorsky CH-53G helicopter to fulfill its heavy-lift requirement, and in the fall of 1969, the first two Sikorsky CH-53G aircraft (pictured here) were transferred to West German officials after being built in Stratford, Connecticut.
Following some four years of testing and evaluation, Germany chose the Sikorsky CH-53G helicopter to fulfill its heavy-lift requirement, and in the fall of 1969, the first two Sikorsky CH-53G aircraft (pictured here) were transferred to West German officials after being built in Stratford, Connecticut.

“We are building upon our more than 50-year partnership with the German Armed Forces”

John Jaques, International Business Development Director
Continually upgraded to this day, the CH-53G helicopter fleet has proven to be steady, safe, and reliable in times of need and in various challenging scenarios. The German Armed Forces have taken advantage of its many discriminating capabilities over the years, including the rugged marinized design, the multi-mission operational concept utilized by the Marines, and the automatic rotor folding system, which allows for the aircraft to be stored in different hangars at all German airbases.
The CH-53G and the CH-53K both utilize an automatic blade/pylon fold system  to reduce the footprint of the aircraft for storage on ships or in restricted hangar structures. This procedure is still used regularly at all CH-53G bases across Germany.
The CH-53G and the CH-53K both utilize an automatic blade/pylon fold system to reduce the footprint of the aircraft for storage on ships or in restricted hangar structures. This procedure is still used regularly at all CH-53G bases across Germany.

Poised for Sustainment

In December 2019, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) awarded a contract to Sikorsky to provide critically needed spare parts and dynamic components for the remainder of the CH-53G fleet’s service life, which is expected to run into the 2030s. Sikorsky continues to leverage this sustainment approach to support the CH-53G helicopter fleet, and most parts of the initial package have been delivered already.
Germany’s 70 CH-53G helicopters provide airlift capabilities including troop and cargo transport, personnel recovery operations, and humanitarian, medevac, aerial firefighting, and disaster relief missions.
Germany’s 70 CH-53G helicopters provide airlift capabilities including troop and cargo transport, personnel recovery operations, and humanitarian, medevac, aerial firefighting, and disaster relief missions.

“We are building upon our more than 50-year partnership with the German Armed Forces” said John Jaques, International Business Development Director. “We remain committed to stabilizing the availability of the CH-53G aircraft and look forward to supporting the fleet well into retirement with our existing German industry team.”

Under this lifetime buy agreement, Sikorsky’s sustainment strategy allows for improved stability of aircraft fleet operations; crews and maintainers can continue to operate and train with the existing fleet. A similar sustainment framework has been successfully used and implemented to this day to support the CH-53D legacy fleet in Israel and the CH-53E fleet for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Both the Israeli Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps are in the process of transitioning to a new heavy-lift helicopter fleet with the CH-53K.

Sustaining and maintaining Germany’s CH-53G fleet is especially important now, as the existing aircraft and the crews as well as the maintainers must be able to support operations at Germany’s current operating bases during the upcoming transition to an STH fleet. “A stable legacy fleet operation will provide a critical foundation in order to successfully transition to STH; it is important that Germany be able to operate the existing aircraft and continually train personnel to get ready for the next generation. That’s what we are ready to support with our existing industry team” said Jaques.

The Next Generation of Heavy Lift

Currently, the options to replace the CH-53G are being evaluated through a government-to-government procurement framework. Sikorsky’s all-new, 21st-century CH-53K "King Stallion" heavy-lift helicopter is part of that discussion.

The CH-53K would enable a seamless transition from the current CH-53G fleet and would do so well within the German Armed Forces’ requested requirements. The CH-53K could enter into service as a true military-off-the-shelf heavy-lift helicopter, without the need for additional modifications or upgrades for the next several decades

Additionally, the modern design and integrated systems would also enable seamless interoperability in terms of logistics exchange, aerial refueling, and integration with other modern sea, air, and land forces across Europe – and with the German Air Force’s C-130J/KC-130J squadron, for example.
Additionally, the modern design and integrated systems would also enable seamless interoperability in terms of logistics exchange, aerial refueling, and integration with other modern sea, air, and land forces across Europe – and with the German Air Force’s C-130J/KC-130J squadron, for example.

For Germany. By Germany.

German industry suppliers are a critical resource when it comes to supporting the legacy CH-53G fleet with necessary equipment and components as well as in-country maintenance capabilities. These include the existing STH CH-53K exclusive teammates: Rheinmetall, MTU, Autoflug, and Hydro, among several others. Many of these suppliers have already supported the CH-53K program in the U.S. and have extensive experience supporting their equipment on this aircraft.

This team is providing critical support to the legacy CH-53G fleet today and will be ready to support the German Air Force’s STH fleet throughout the transition into the future.

The Sikorsky CH-53K in Germany’s existing infrastructure at Holzdorf Airbase, utilizing existing ground support equipment next to the legacy CH-53G aircraft.
The Sikorsky CH-53K in Germany’s existing infrastructure at Holzdorf Airbase, utilizing existing ground support equipment next to the legacy CH-53G aircraft.

This hub would establish numerous high-tech jobs and strengthen Leipzig, the local airport, and the surrounding states as prime business locations in the long term. Rheinmetall and Sikorsky are working with the airport operator in Leipzig to establish the center, which is necessary for the operation of the helicopter fleet.

“We are in advanced talks on a logistics and maintenance hub at Leipzig Airport,” said Mike Schmidt, managing director of Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH. “We are delighted with the very positive response so far. If the CH-53K is selected, the maintenance and supply of the new Bundeswehr transport helicopter could be carried out centrally and efficiently in Leipzig. For the region, the project would mean the settlement of important industry and associated jobs.”

“We have built up a strong industrial team over the past years in Germany that will ensure the availability of the legacy CH-53G and the STH CH-53K fleet for the German Air Force,” said Christian Albrecht, business development manager at Sikorsky in Berlin, and a former chief operating officer for maintenance management with the 64th Helicopter Wing of the German Air Force at Holzdorf Air Base. “With our plans for a hub at Leipzig Airport, we are laying the foundation to provide the Bundeswehr with a helicopter fleet that will be reliable and sustainable in Germany for several decades while also providing a central logistics hub for future heavy-lift helicopter fleets across Europe.”

Sikorsky CH-53G and CH-53K operating side-by-side at Holzdorf Airbase in Germany.
Sikorsky CH-53G and CH-53K operating side-by-side at Holzdorf Airbase in Germany.