Sikorsky Aircraft has unveiled the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, which is expected to enter operational service with the US Marine Corps (USMC) in 2019.
Named by the USMC as 'King Stallion', the next generation helicopter is powered by GE Aviation's latest T408 engines, which reportedly offer 57% more power by consuming 20% less fuel than CH-53E aircraft's T64 turboshaft powerplant.
Sikorsky president Mick Maurer said that the CH-53K helicopter introduces a new era in USMC aviation.
"The CH-53K aircraft will effectively triple the external load carrying capacity of the CH-53E aircraft, to more than 27,000lb over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles," Maurer said.
"With its 88,000lb maximum gross weight, powerful new engines, lightweight composite structure, new rotor blades and fly-by-wire flight controls, the CH-53K will have the means to move troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher altitude terrain, more quickly and effectively than ever before."
The latest helicopter variant comes with new transmission, which will efficiently transfer the engine power to the CH-53K's main rotors.
Incorporating what the company claims is the largest and most technologically advanced 35ft-long main rotor blade, the King Stallion also features a Rockwell Collins digital-glass cockpit that manages a fly-by-wire flight control system, boosts flight handling qualities and reduces pilot workload.
Prior to the commencement of production, Sikorsky carried out the assembly work of the CH-53K in a 3D virtual-reality lab at its Stratford, Connecticut headquarters, making it one of the first all-digitally designed helicopters.
The rollout follows the successful completion of powered ground assessments of its systems, including rotors, drive, electrical, hydraulics, avionics and flight controls in April.
The USMC is planning to place an order for 200 CH-53K production aircraft, eight operational squadrons and one training squadron to support its operational requirements.
Image: The USMC plans to operate Sikorsky's CH-53K heavy lift helicopter in 2019. Photo: courtesy of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.