The US Marine Corps' (USMC) CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter has successfully completed its initial operational testing at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center (DFC) in West Palm Beach, Florida, US.
Conducted by the USMC pilots, aircrew and maintainers, the week-long operational assessment is a major step in support of a low rate initial production (LRIP) Milestone C decision, expected early next year.
The initial Operational Test-B1 (OT-B1) involved external lift scenarios of 27,000lb in hover and 12,000lb, 110nm radius mission.
The ground events included embarkation / debarkation of combat equipped troops, internal and external cargo rigging, tactical bulk fuel delivery system (TBFDS) operation, and medevac litter configuration.
Naval Air Systems Command Heavy Lift Helicopters Programme, US Marine Corps programme manager colonel Hank Vanderborght said: “OT-B1 (Operational Test) is a critical milestone for the programme because this is the first time an operational test has been done utilising an All Marine crew.
“All test objectives were met, and the aircraft performed very well. This further increases our confidence in the design, and is another key step to successfully fielding the CH-53K."
The CH-53K King Stallion has been designed to provide three times the external payload of its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.
This helicopter comes with a modern glass cockpit, which will enable it to engage in heavy-lift missions in day and night, against all weather conditions.
Its fly-by-wire flight controls reduce pilot workload when conducting heavy lift missions such as external loads, maritime operations, and missions in poor visual conditions.
The US Department of Defense's Programme of Record currently has 200 CH-53K aircraft, while the USMC is planning to field eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.
Image: A CH-53K King Stallion being loaded with its high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.