The Marine Corps accepted delivery of the first Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Wednesday, marking an important milestone on the path to achieving initial operational capability sometime next year.
The King Stallion is now entering the Supportability Test Plan which studies the logistics involved with keeping the aircraft operational. This work is will be conducted at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., according to the Marine Corps.
“Our first delivery of a CH-53K to the Marine Corps marks the start of a new generation of true heavy lift helicopter deliveries by Sikorsky that bring unsurpassed and expanded capability across the modern battlefield to provide tremendous mission flexibility and efficiency in delivering combat power, humanitarian assistance or disaster relief for those in need,” Dan Schultz, Sikorsky president and former CH-53 pilot, said in a statement.
The CH-53K King Stallion program officially titled the CH-53K Heavy Lift Replacement Helicopter program – is a new production aircraft destined to replace the existing CH-53E Super Stallion fleet currently used by the Marine Corps. The CH-53E first flew in 1974 and entered Marine Corps service in 1981.
The Department of Defense plans to purchase 200 CH-53K aircraft. The first eight are under contract and Sikorsky will continue delivering them to the Marine Corps through the year. The Marine Corps plans to ultimately field eight active-duty King Stallion squadrons and one reserve squadron.
The King Stallion can carry up to 36,000 pounds on a single-point cargo hook sling — three times what the Super Stallion can lift. The cabin is large enough to carry a Humvee, and the King Stallion is still powerful enough to carry up to 27,000 pounds of external cargo while doing so. The current flyaway cost per airframe is $87 million, according to the Marine Corps.
“I am very proud of the work accomplished to deliver the most powerful helicopter ever designed into the hands of our Marines,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, in a release.
Meanwhile, Sikorsky is also starting to promote the CH-53K and its capabilities to potential international customers. Sikorsky demonstrated the King Stallion’s capabilities at the recent ILA Berlin Airshow in Berlin, Germany. One of the CH-53K enhancements over previous helicopters is what Sikorsky officials have described as an integrated health management system, which monitors parts on the aircraft. This system allows military technicians and Sikorsky officials better plan for when servicing is needed, and ultimately help control costs, according to Sikorsky officials.