The CH-53K King Stallion, a heavy-lift cargo helicopter developed by Sikorsky, has successfully completed a series of sea trials in the Atlantic last month. The trials, which lasted for five full days and nights, evaluated the aircraft’s performance in a modern naval environment and took place aboard the USS Arlington, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD24) operated by the US Navy.
The trials were the second set of sea trials for the CH-53K, following successful initial trials in June 2020. A diverse team of 105 personnel from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two One (HX-21), H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261), Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (HMH-461), Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1), and Sikorsky pilots, engineers, technicians, and maintainers were involved in the testing.
According to Sarah Naiva, Assistant Program Manager for Test and Evaluation for the CH-53K, the joint team overcame numerous challenges during the testing, including “tumultuous seas,” but ultimately succeeded in expanding the CH-53K LPD launch and recovery envelope.
“The latest sea trials were another great success for the CH-53K program,” said Col. Kate Fleeger, PMA-261 program manager. “Data analysis has shown a greater CH-53K LPD launch and recovery envelope than that of the CH-53E.”
The sea trials included a series of tests to evaluate the aircraft’s performance at sea, including launch and recovery, rotor start and shutdown, blade fold, and shipboard compatibility testing. Ship compatibility testing involved 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.
Ultimately, the successful sea trials will enable the CH-53K to provide critical ship-to-shore heavy lift capability for future Marine Expeditionary Unit deployments.
“The Marine Corps continues to execute its transition from the CH-53E to the CH-53K and is on schedule to declare Full Operational Capability in FY2029,” said Naiva.
The CH-53K is the latest iteration of the CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter family, which has been in service with the US Marine Corps since 1968. The CH-53K is designed to transport heavy equipment, supplies, and personnel over long distances and in difficult terrain and weather conditions. Its increased lift capacity and improved performance make it a critical asset for the Marine Corps and other branches of the US military.