Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. recently opened its new Precision Components Technology Center, declaring it would establish “a new path toward strategic competitive excellence beginning with the manufacture of CH-53K heavy lift helicopter components.”
The CH-53K is a156-helicopter production program aimed at improving the U.S. Marine Corps’ medium-heavy lift capabilities. The Precision Components Technology Center is a $20-million project, but part of a $130-million investment in the CH53K program by United Technologies Corp. Sikorsky, a UTC subsidiary, will produce helicopter components like rotating and stationary swashplates, main and tail rotor hubs, and main rotor sleeves.
"The heavy-lift mission is critical,” according to Mark Cherry, Sikorsky’s v.p. Marine Corps Programs. “The size and complexity of the CH-53K helicopter's critical parts necessitated a center dedicated to its production and design iterations as we continue on our path to first flight. We expect the technology center to leverage a number of the manufacturing improvements incorporated in the development of this aircraft, including identifying critical part characteristics to align with manufacturing process capability."
Sikorsky stated that the Stratford, CT, center will demonstrate the large scale of the CH-53K and the production challenges imposed by its size and technological complexity. For example, some of the forgings to be machined there will be twice the size of the largest forging produced at the facility to date.
The Precision Components Technology Center was designed to allow new product lines to be developed with "zero setup time" and quick changeover from one component to another. The center is equipped to produce any precision rotor and drive system dynamic component, including legacy configurations.
Mick Maurer, Senior Vice President of Sikorsky Operations, said the center's primary focus will be to support the dynamic components of the CH-53K System Development and Demonstration program, but the facility also was created with an eye toward the future.