Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, announced on the 14th of March the second CH-53K helicopter has joined the flight test program and achieved first flight. In addition the first aircraft into the test program has achieved flight envelope expansion to 120 knots for the U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter program.
“Adding a second aircraft into flight status signifies another milestone for the CH-53K program,” said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s vice president of CH-53K Programs. “With both aircraft in flight test, our flight envelope expansion efforts will accelerate as we continue to make good progress toward our initial operational test assessment and full aircraft system qualification.”
The first and second CH-53K heavy lift helicopter Engineering Development Models (EDM) achieved their first flights on Oct. 27, 2015, and Jan. 22, 2016, respectively. To date these helicopters have achieved over 35 flight hours combined including multiple flights with an active duty USMC pilot at the controls. As the flight test program proceeds, these two flying CH-53K helicopters will be joined by two additional aircraft to complete flight qualification of the USMC’s next generation heavy lift capability over an approximately three-year flight test program.
These first two aircraft are the most heavily instrumented of the Engineering Development Models (EDM) and will focus on structural flight loads and envelope expansion. When the other two EDM aircraft join the flight line in 2016 they will focus on performance, propulsion and avionics flight qualification.
“It is exciting to have two CH-53K helicopters flying,” said Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters. “Our program continues on pace to deploy this incredible heavy lift capability to our warfighters.”
Sikorsky is now developing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps. The King Stallion maintains similar physical dimensions with a reduced “footprint” compared to its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter, but will more than triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under “high hot” ambient conditions.
Features of the CH-53K helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s program of record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.