The US Marine Corps is set to give the go-ahead in September for development of a third-generation Sikorsky CH-53 heavylift helicopter that improves gross weight hover performance by 30%.

The CH-53X programme is expected to provide an initial operational capability by 2015, says Col Paul Croisetiere, programme manager at Naval Air Systems Command, who adds that the programme is not to be confused with the more ambitious Joint Vertical Airlift programme for the US Army and Navy. CH-53X is expected to provide a design that can lift a 13,600kg (30,000lb) load over 205km (110nm) - equivalent to three times the external load of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor, says Croisetiere. Four engine suppliers are competing to power the new aircraft: General Electric, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Rolls-Royce. Driving the requirement is the increasing unreliability of the CH-53E, which needs all-new transition bulkheads after 6,120 flight hours and regular main rotor and transmission maintenance. The CH-53X will be expected to complete 2.6 sorties within a 10h period, averaging 2.25h per sortie.

Source: Flight International