The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending the US Navy (USN) limit the production of Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters to six per year, less than planned, for the next few years until initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) is completed.
In a report released on 4 March, the GAO said that increasing production beyond the current level of six per year, in the face of unresolved technical challenges and still-to-be completed testing, could prove costly and delay delivery of suitable aircraft. The GAO said that the extension of the schedule for the completion of testing in the context of a planned increase in production raises the risk that costs will rise to pay for retrofitting aircraft produced before testing is completed.
The GAO said that the CH-53K effort was at risk of increased costs due to the concurrency, or the overlap of testing and production in the programme. The effort will have been producing aircraft for nearly six years before the scheduled completion of operational testing, expected for the end of fiscal year 2022, an increase of concurrency of nearly three years. As a result, the effort now plans to procure a total of 38 helicopters in LRIP over six years.