ITT Corp. (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA) reported on Nov. 19 that it has delivered its first major composite structural subassemblies for the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.
This delivery culminates nearly three years of advanced design, development, testing and manufacturing to provide sponsons for the CH-53K helicopter. These assemblies represent a significant technology advancement by applying composite materials to military aircraft that operate in harsh environments.
Sponsons attach to each side of a helicopter fuselage and house important components, such as landing gear, fuel, and other mechanical and electrical assemblies without compromising interior passenger or cargo space. Each sponson is 25 ft/7.6m long by 4 ft/1.2m wide and 5 ft/1.5m high. This delivery supports the first prototype aircraft, with future potential to support 200 aircraft during the life of the program.
The CH-53K helicopter program is using proven and mature technologies that will significantly expand the fleet's capability in comparison to its predecessor, the CH-53E helicopter, by tripling the aircraft's lift in high and hot environments while reducing support and maintenance costs.
In addition, the composite sponsons are designed to be significantly more resilient to the environmental conditions, ballistics and in-flight stress, while allowing for increased cabin width without a change in vehicle footprint.
To meet the demanding weight, durability and affordability objectives of the CH-53K helicopter program, ITT is employing the latest composite design and manufacturing technologies for these important flight structures, including electronic model control, laser-ply projection, five-axis computer numerically controlled machining, automated trimming and drilling, as well as laser and ultrasonic inspection of all subassemblies.
"We've brought the best of our composite technology and experience to produce a stronger, more durable and operationally flexible aircraft to help the Marines perform their critical missions," said Jim Barber, vice president for ITT's Integrated Structures business area. "ITT is committed to growing our composites business so we can serve our customersí needs."
Production will be done at ITT's Electronic Systems facility in Salt Lake City, Utah.