This Is Our First Look At The Marines' New CH-53K King Stallion Flying From A Ship

In the years to come, the King Stallions will become a staple aboard U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships. 

USN

The Marine Corps' new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift utility helicopter has finally made its way to an amphibious assault ship. The beast of a flying machine wrapped up its inaugural set of sea trials and the Navy has some great photos to show for it. The sight of the triple engine Sikorsky helo flying from the 'Gator Navy's' big-deck amphibious assault ships will become commonplace in years to come, but today, it is totally new. 

The remarkably large and freakishly powerful helicopter is set to replace the aging CH-53E Super Stallion and is considered an absolutely critical aircraft program for the Corps', which relies on its CH-53s to lug around it heaviest loads and outsized cargo, including armored vehicles and howitzers.

Check out these shots of the historic shipboard tests that The War Zone obtained from the Navy:

US Navy
US Navy
US Navy

A Navy release about the trials reads:

The CH-53K King Stallion completed a two-week period of sea trials in the Atlantic earlier this month. This was the first opportunity to see the aircraft working in a modern naval environment.

Testing took place on the USS Wasp, a landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship operated by the U.S. Navy. 

“I’m very pleased with how the ship tests went,” said Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 helicopters program manager. “We were able to assess the K taking off and landing day, night, and with night vision goggles and it performed extremely well.”

According to the CH-53K integrated test team, the sea trials are a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the aircraft at sea. Tests performed during the two weeks included: launch and recovery; rotor start and shutdown; blade fold; and shipboard compatibility testing – all in increasing wind speed and varying wind directions relative to the aircraft.

“The bulk of the testing was in launch and recovery,” said Perrin, “and we nailed it every time, no matter what the wind/sea conditions were. The 53K is now a “feet-wet” warrior from the sea.”

Ship compatibility testing includes towing the aircraft around the deck and in the hangar, performing maintenance while aboard the ship, ensuring the aircraft fits in all the locations it needs to around the ship deck and hangar, and evaluating chain/tie-down procedures.

The CH-53K King Stallion continues to execute within the reprogrammed CH-53K timeline, moving toward completion of developmental test, leading to initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 and first fleet deployment in 2023-2024.

It is exciting to see this program moving forward. The helicopter has been hit by its fair share of delays and cost overruns, but the future is looking brighter for the aircraft, whose lineage dates back over half a century. Still, the Marines need it to work and soon. As such, getting to the ship is a big milestone.

UPDATE:

Here is a statement from Bill Falk, the director of Sikorsky's CH-53K program, on the shipboard tests:

"The CH-53K demonstrated exceptional performance throughout its initial sea trials continuing the team’s progress towards initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 and deployment in 2023-2024

Executing 364 ship landings and takeoffs from all deck spots, expanding the wind envelope, performing multiple towing and hanger evolutions, and conducting multiple rotor blade spread, fold, engagement and disengagement operations, the CH-53K is right at home aboard a large-deck amphibious ship and is one step closer to deployment.

The King Stallion, the only 21st Century fully marinized heavy-lift helicopter, excelled in the shipboard environment reinforcing its critical role allowing Marines the operational flexibility to move more material, more rapidly from ship to shore."

USN

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com