The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter recently completed initial operational testing and evaluations and will enter service with the United States Marine Corps later this year, Janes reports.
The King Stallion will form the backbone of Navy and Navy heavy-lift operations. It’s faster, lighter and more robust, while having three times the capacity of its predecessor.
A Navy press release said the King Stallion is “the most powerful helicopter in the Department of Defence”. He also said, “The CH-53K is a new-build helicopter that will expand the fleet’s ability to move more material, faster throughout the area of responsibility using proven and mature technologies.”
The King Stallion can lift nearly fourteen tons “within a mission radius of 110 nautical miles…in very hot Navy environments.” The King Stallion “is designed to lift triple the base lift capacity of the CH-53E with an equivalent onboard logistics footprint, lower operating costs per aircraft, and fewer direct maintenance hours per flight hour” .
A month ago, the Marine Corps stood up Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, the first unit to receive the new CH-53K King Stallion. The pilots of this unit had previously flown the CH-53E Super Stallion, the predecessor of the King Stallion.
The King’s Stallion the internal cargo bay has been enlarged by twelve inches and can accommodate a wider range of payload and payload arrangements. Despite the increase in size, the King Stallion has an equivalent logistics footprint, requires less maintenance and enjoys lower operating costs than the Super Stallion.
The design benefits from several other improvements, including efficient fourth-generation composite rotor blades. Pilots are aided by an all-glass cockpit, which eases flight load. The mechanics of the King Stallion also benefit from components that require less maintenance than the Super Stallion.
Still, the development of the King Stallion hasn’t always been smooth. During testing, several design flaws were discovered, including engines ingesting exhaust, rotor gears with shorter than expected lifespans, and issues with the driveshaft and tail rotor of the helicopter.
The advantages of the King Stallion over the Super Stallion are significant, which is one of the reasons why the Marine Corps would ultimately like to acquire two hundred King Stallions. Although the timeline for the entry into service of the first helicopters is unclear, it should be before the end of this year.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and advocacy writer with National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. It covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.
Picture: Marine Corps Flickr.