The US Marine Corps' (USMC) CH-53K King Stallion programme has successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review and attained a Milestone C decision.
CH-35K King Stallion is currently being developed by Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky Aircraft division, and the new decision will potentially allow the programme to become eligible for low-rate initial production funding.
The CH-53K King Stallion is a large, heavy-lift cargo helicopter, which will operate as the largest and heaviest helicopter in the US military.
Sikorsky CH-53K Programmes vice-president Dr Michael Torok said: “This affirmative Milestone C decision validates the maturity and the robust capability of the King Stallion in meeting the USMC mission requirements.
“This establishes the CH-53K as a production programme and marks another critical step toward our goal of delivering this tremendous capability to the USMC.”
The King Stallion has the capability to lift weight three times heavier than the old CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, which it is set to replace. It also has more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin compared to its predecessor.
USMC Naval Air Systems Command Heavy Lift Helicopters programme PMA-261 programme manager colonel Hank Vanderborght said: “We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed.
“This incredible positive step function in capability is going to revolutionise the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical throughput into that battlespace.”
The new helicopter also features improved safety features for the warfighter, which includes full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management, which helps reduce pilot workload and allows the crew to place greater focus on mission execution.
Image: The US Marine Corps established the King Stallion's capability during initial operational assessment in October 2016. Photo: courtesy of PRNewsFoto / Lockheed Martin.