Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion. Photo courtesy of UTC Aerospace Systems
Sikorsky has completed the delivery of the first of what experts consider to be the most powerful helicopter ever to be fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps. The first CH-53K King Stallion was delivered Wednesday to the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in New River, North Carolina.
The heaviest helicopter ever flown by Sikorsky has been in flight-testing status since October 2015. The aircraft will replace the existing CH-53E. Capable of transporting 36,000 pounds externally and moving up to 27,000 pounds across 110 nm, its vertical-lift capability is three times as powerful as the CH-53E.
As reported by Sikorsky, the first CH-53K delivered is System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) 3 and will not fly as a regular asset until mid-2019. Over the next year, the Marines will asses the helicopter’s maintenance, sustainment and overall aviation logistics support of the King Stallion.
A demonstration of the CH-53K at the Berlin International Air and Trade Show in April showed its ability to perform forward-flight speed of 200 kt as well as 60-deg-angle-of-bank turns and 12-deg slope landings and takeoffs. There was also a demonstration of its external load auto-jettison capability.
CH-53K also incorporates technologies that contribute to decreased maintenance requirements, including low-maintenance rotorhead and composite rotor blades.
The U.S. Defense Department's program of record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The first eight of the 200 program of record aircraft are under contract with some of those scheduled for delivery to the Marines this year. The Marine Corps will transition to eight active-duty squadrons, one training squadron and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.
Check out video footage of the first CH-53K delivery: