The Marine Corps accepted delivery of its first CH-53K King Stallion from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky at the New River Air Station in North Carolina on Wednesday, following years of setbacks.
The CH-53K is a milestone for the Marine Corps’ future heavy-lift helicopter program. It has a max external lift of 36,000 pounds – three times that of the legacy “E” aircraft. It can also carry 27,000 pounds over 100 nautical miles.
The delivery on Wednesday is the first of an expected 200 in the coming years. If the Marine Corps completes the full purchase order, each helicopter will cost around $80 million.
The CH-53K was designed to replace the Marine Corp’s fleet of CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters.
The helicopter will now enter the Supportability Test Plan to conduct a logistical assessment on the maintenance and sustainability of the aircraft.
The CH-53K King Stallion is expected to reach the initial operation stage by the end of 2019.
The helicopter has been in development since 2006 and was expected to reach initial operation capability by 2015.
“Our first delivery of a CH-53K to the Marine Corps marks the start of a new generation of true heavy-lift helicopter deliveries by Sikorsky that bring unsurpassed and expanded capability across the modern battlefield to provide tremendous mission flexibility and efficiency in delivering combat power, humanitarian assistance or disaster relief for those in need,” Dan Schultz, Sikorsky President and former CH-53 pilot, said in a news release. “With 18 additional aircraft in various stages of production already, the entire Sikorsky team, in partnership with our suppliers, is looking forward to additional deliveries to delight our customer.”
In April, the CH-53K made its international debut at the ILA Berlin air show, showcasing its maneuverability and advanced fly-by-wire technology.
“I am very proud of the work accomplished to deliver the most powerful helicopter ever designed into the hands of our Marines,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, Deputy Commandant for Aviation. “And confident in the teamwork and dedication in this program, which will carry us to IOC (Initial Operational Capability) next year.”