Sikorsky King Stallion CH-53K. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
U.S. Marines are expected to operate in small, quick-moving, dispersed units in future wars and the Marine Corps must find ways to resupply them at speed and in bulk.
Key to modernizing and expanding the Marine Corps logistics capability is the new Sikorsky CH-53K, according to Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.
A major focus for the Marine Corps through the rest of the fiscal year and into fiscal 2019 is logistics modernization to sustain deployed Marine Air-Ground Tasks Forces and the constituent units the MAGTF will break into during expeditionary forcible entry operations ashore, Beaudreault said June 4 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Some Marine units ashore could set up a position or a command post for as little as 24 or 72 hours before breaking down and moving to another location to avoid detection or drawing the fire of enemy forces.
“If we have this concept of expeditionary advanced bases across widely distributed areas, how do we sustain that force?” he said. “What do we have today in terms of logistics distribution and what do we need for the future and how do we get there? What’s going to be manned? What’s going to be unmanned?”
A “tremendous asset” that will help the Marine Corps move mounds of cargo and Marines from ship to shore is the Sikorsky CH-53K, Beaudreault said. The first in a planned fleet of 200 King Stallions, which Beaudreault called an “incredible machine” capable of lifting 36,000 pounds, was delivered last month.
“It can hit three separate, independent [drop] zones because it’s got three independent sling loads that can resupply and sustain at over 12,000 pounds each,” Beaudreault said. “That’s ammunition. That’s fuel. That’s whatever we need.”
The first of about 200 CH-53Ks the Marine Corps is buying from Sikorsky under a $25 billion contract was delivered in May to Air Station New River in North Carolina where it will undergo further testing in preparation for initial operational capability in 2019. A second aircraft is scheduled for delivery in early 2019, and 18 others are in some stage of production, according to Sikorsky.
Once it enters service, the King Stallion will be the largest single-rotor helicopter in the U.S. military inventory. It will be able to carry 27,000 pounds of cargo compared to the 9,000 pounds a CH-53E can carry, effectively tripling the Marine Corps ship-to-shore lift capacity.
Introducing the CH-53K is “just one piece” of several efforts the service is undertaking to modernize its logistics systems. The service is also in the market for an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that can launch from and land on a ship, Beaudreault said.
“There are all kinds of armed UAS operating today, but very few that can effectively operate from a ship,” he said. “We’re pursuing some technology in that way.”