The Sikorsky CH-53K next-generation of the Super Stallion heavylift helicopter will offer vastly improved load carrying capabilities, while not exceeding the size footprint of the current US Marine Corps’ CH-53E.
It is imperative that the CH-53K is able to operate from the Marine Corps’ light assault ships, with the current E-model already at the top end of the size limits for ship operations. Capt Rick Muldoon, USMC project manager at Patuxent River, Maryland, says the Corps still has 34 CH-53Ds and 152 CH-53Es in service and has dragged 10 airframes out of desert storage and re-constituted them to meet current operational needs. The Marines desperately need to replace these tired airframes and a $15 billion procurement of 156 CH-53Ks is currently envisaged.
Sikorsky is currently completing development work as it aims for a November 2011 first flight for the ‘K’, with initial operating capability (IOC) planning for FY2015 and full operational capability (FOC) in FY2021.
The CH-53K is an all-new design and build helicopter, slightly smaller than the current E-model, partly thanks to bigger side sponsons and no external fuel tanks, but with a 12in wider cabin and a planned 30,000lb payload capability for a max gross weight (MGW) of 84,700lb. It features the new Rockwell Collins common avionics architecture system (CAAS) cockpit, extensive use of composite materials, new advanced rotors, three General Electric GE38-1B 7500shp engines and a three-point external cargo handling system.