The US Marine Corps' (USMC) Sikorsky-built CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter has completed an external lift flight.
During the out of ground effect (OGE) external load flight test, which was conducted at Sikorsky's Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, US, the helicopter successfully carried a 27,000lb external payload.
The OGE test was carried out by the aircraft at 100ft above the ground while conducting hover manoeuvres to demonstrate its control authority.
US Marine Corps programme manager for the Naval Air Systems Command Heavy Lift Helicopters Programme colonel Hank Vanderborght said: "Lifting 27,000lb in OGE conditions is another key milestone for the programme, which further confirms our confidence in the design and performance of the aircraft.
"This is the most strenuous condition we had to demonstrate from a performance standpoint prior to achieving Milestone C and entering production."
The CH-53K has achieved speeds in excess of 140k during its flight test programme.
The first two aircraft have already verified the King Stallion's capabilities, and a third helicopter has joined the flight test programme. A fourth unit is currently in final preparation for flight status and will join the programme this summer.
All the four aircraft are expected to be delivered to the USMC in 2017 and initial operating capability scheduled for 2019.
The USMC expects to take delivery of a total of 200 CH-53K aircraft and stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.
The King Stallion has been designed to provide heavy lift capability to the navy with reduced logistic footprint and support costs.
Image: Sikorsky CH-53 King Stallion lifts a 27,000lb external load. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.