The US Marine Corps (USMC) has confirmed the initial operational capability (IOC) of the heavy-lift helicopter, CH-53K King Stallion.
The milestone achievement comes after the successful initial operational testing and evaluation (IOT&E) of test vignettes, which was completed earlier this year.
The IOC further validates the CH-53K helicopter’s operational readiness to forward deploy the equipment and troops across the world.
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin’s company Sikorsky, the CH-53K helicopter allows the USMC and international militaries to effectively transport equipment and Marines Corps from ship to shore and to higher altitude terrain.
The aircraft is designed with digitally enhanced modern maintenance support to deliver increased mission readiness.
Sikorsky president Paul Lemmo said: “This declaration is a vote of confidence from Marine Corps leadership and demonstrates the critical role of the CH-53K, giving forces more range and agility to conduct expeditionary heavy-lift assault transport of armoured vehicles, equipment, and personnel.
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“This capability is critical in the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe in support of the joint force and allies.”
After the successful flight tests in the fleet environment conducted by the USMC, the CH-53K is on track for its scheduled deployment.
The helicopter has already flown more than 3,000 flight hours, demonstrating the capabilities of the aircraft in conducting a variety of missions, including extreme hot and cold environments.
Following the IOC declaration, the USMC will announce the full-rate production decision next year, with an expected approved acquisition objective of 200 CH-53K helicopters.
Currently, production of seven aircraft is underway at the company’s CH-53K production line in Stratford, Connecticut, including the delivery of three aircraft set to take place later this year.
Under a US Navy foreign military sales (FMS) agreement, the Government of Israel has purchased 46 aircraft, including four heavy-lift helicopters and 14 aircraft for long-lead material.