The US Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion has successfully plugged into a funnel-shaped drogue towed behind a KC-130J during aerial refueling wake testing over the Chesapeake Bay.

The helicopter demonstrated long-range logistics support capabilities for the US Marine Corps.

The wake survey test evaluated the aircraft’s performance when flying behind the tanker in turbulent air.

According to the US Navy, tests were carried out at increasing closure rates to make sure that the CH-53K can handle the forces on the refueling probe when contacting the drogue during aerial refueling.

H-53 heavy lift helicopters (PMA-261) programme manager Jack Perrin said: “The aircraft went to the tanker this week and it was very successful, proving it is a long-range vertical logistic workhorse.

“The aircraft was able to meet the desired performance for all engagements. The ‘K’ is the long-range enabler that we need now and into the future.”

To be implemented within the reprogrammed CH-53K timeline, the CH-53K King Stallion is moving toward completion of developmental test, leading to initial operational test and assessment in 2021. Initial fleet deployment is planned in 2023-2024.

The heavy-lift helicopter has been in development since 2006. It will replace the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion fleet, which has been in use for about 40 years.

It has the capacity to carry triple the weight of its predecessor at 27,000lb and can transport up to four Humvees over 100 miles.