The US Marine Corps (USMC) first CH-53K prototype heavy lift helicopter, the ground test vehicle (GTV), has been delivered by Sikorsky to the flight test team for performing ground-based flight tests.
Delivery is part of the $3.5bn contract signed with Sikorsky to design, develop and demonstrate GTV and the four flight aircraft, also known as engineering development models, for the USMC.
Preliminary acceptance trials will include regulating the fuel system of the GTV as well as equipping measuring devices to record temperature, aerodynamic loads, pressure and vibrations.
The GTV aircraft will undergo testing following the completion of powered ground checks, at the company's Developmental Flight Center, Florida, US.
Light-off process on the GTV will be performed by mid-2013, when the aircraft will be tested initially without rotor blades and later with the blades attached.
Sikorsky's CH-53K programme vice president Michael Torok said that the GTV aimed to test the condition of the CH-53K helicopter's dynamic systems and measure the performance of the rotor blades, transmission, and engines when it was tied to the ground.
"Extensive ground-based flight checks with Sikorsky and NAVAIR test pilots at the cockpit controls will confirm whether these dynamic systems, as well as hydraulic, electrical, and avionics systems, can meet the requirements established by the marines for their next-generation heavy lift helicopter," Torok added.
Capable of carrying more than 27,000lb of external load in extreme weather conditions, the CH-53K helicopters are being developed to replace the existing CH-53E Super Stallions in 2019.
Currently, two additional ground test helicopters are undergoing airframe structural testing at the company's facility in Stratford, Connecticut, US, while all the four follow-on helicopters will undergo flight testing between 2014 and 2015.
Sikorsky team for the contract involves Aurora Flight Sciences, ITT Excelis, GKN Aerospace and Spirit Aerosystems.
Image: Sikorsky-built CH-53K ground test vehicle prototype at its facility. Photo: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.