The heavy lift helicopter’s readiness has been validated after its operational capabilities were put to the test.
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Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has officially achieved initial operational capability (IOC) with the US Marine Corps following a series of test and evaluation (T&E) activities.
With the support of the US Navy and the US Marine Corps, the Sikorsky-built aircraft conducted 3,000 flight hours across a range of mission scenarios.
The helicopter – designed to rapidly transport troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher altitude terrain – has achieved a number of operational milestones, which include:
- day and night air-to-air refuelling;
- air-to-air refuelling with 27,000 pounds (12,246 kilograms) external load;
- sea trials with over 350 landings;
- live fire testing and evaluation;
- sustained operations simulating offload of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade;
- testing in degraded visual environment conditions at US Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona; and
- delivery of first six aircraft to the Marine Corps.
“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,” Sikorsky president Paul Lemmo said.
“This capability is critical in the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe in support of the joint force and allies.
“Sikorsky and our nationwide CH-53K supply chain, including dozens of small businesses, are committed to delivering aircraft that can adapt to future missions and are reliable, sustainable and relevant for decades to come.”
The US military is expected to make a full-rate production decision in 2023, with an Approved Acquisition Objective of 200 aircraft.
Sikorsky is currently actively producing seven aircraft, including three on schedule to deliver to the Marine Corps this year.
The company is contracted to manufacture 46 aircraft, including four heavy-lift helicopters for the government of Israel and another 14 aircraft on contract for long lead material.
[Related: Sikorsky, Boeing bolster Team DEFIANT ]