Sikorsky Aircraft has gone through the initial testing phase of the 35-foot main and 10-foot tail rotor blades for the CH-53K, the heavy lift helicopter being developed for the U.S. Marine Corps. The blades are designed to meet USMC requirements for the CH-53K’s maximum gross weight of 88,000 lbs. Mike Torok, CH-53K vice president at Sikorsky, notes that the blades are important in helping carry “almost three times the payload compared to the CH-53E Super Stallion,” which the K will replace.
The fourth-generation main rotor blades measure 35 feet long and three feet wide with the capacity to generate 71 percent more power in conjunction with the aircraft’s three 7,500-shaft-hp GE38-1Bs. When attached to the nine-foot diameter main rotor hub, the seven main blades will span a diameter of nearly 40 feet. Four 10-foot-long tail rotor blades feature 15 percent more surface area over the CH-53E blades.
The next phase for the giant blades involves qualification testing at Sikorsky’s headquarters in Stratford, Conn. From there, engineers will attach the blades to the CH-53K ground test vehicle (GTV) at the manufacturer’s Developmental Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., where a “Shakedown Light-Off” will take place involving trials of the engines, transmissions and blades working together for the first time.