The Pentagon is assessing whether Boeing’s heavy-lift helicopter for the Army, the CH-47 Chinook, could replace Lockheed Martin’s troubled King Stallion chopper for some or all Marine Corps missions, according to officials.
Boeing has provided the Defense Department information on how the Chinook might be adapted for Marine Corps missions, according to two officials, both of whom asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Analysts from the Pentagon’s independent cost analysis and program assessment group met at Boeing’s Philadelphia facility April 25 to review the data, the officials said.
A Pentagon decision to direct the Navy to buy maritime versions of the CH-47 — assuming the chopper can be converted for the rugged, corrosive environment of aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships — would be a blow to Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed. The Navy’s plans to buy 200 King Stallions, known as the CH-53K, were a prime motivation for the company’s $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies Corp. in 2015.
Bill Falk, the King Stallion’s program director, said he was aware of the review and was confident his company’s helicopter remains the Navy’s best choice.
“There is simply no other helicopter that comes close to the performance of the CH-53K or that can meet Marine Corps requirements,” he said.
The Pentagon assessment was begun after an April 4 request from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe who cited continuing technical problems and delays with the $31 billion King Stallion program.
Inhofe’s request called for an assessment of the CH-53K’s cost, schedule and performance and “an assessment of alternatives for other platforms that might meet the mission,” Robert Daigle, director of the cost analysis office, said in an interview last week. The Chinook “is one of those alternatives,” he added.