Lockheed Martin announced on October 21 that the CH-53K King Stallion has successfully completed initial operational testing by the US Marine Corps to verify the key capabilities of the heavy lift helicopter. The week-long operational assessment by Marine Corps pilots, aircrew and maintainers marked an important step in support of a low-rate initial production (LRIP) Milestone C decision early next year.
“This successful operational assessment by the Marine Corps is a clear sign of the maturity and robust capability of the King Stallion,” said Dr Michael Torok, Sikorsky vice president, CH-53K Programs. “This was a key requirement in support of the upcoming Milestone C decision, and its success is another important step in our transition from development into production.”
The US Marine Corps’ initial operational testing included external lift scenarios of 27,000 lb (12,200kg) in hover and a 12,000 lb (5,422kg) 110 nautical mile mission radius. Ground events included embarkation/debarkation of combat equipped troops, internal and external cargo rigging, tactical bulk fuel delivery system (TBFDS) operation and medevac litter configuration.
Overall, post evaluation interviews of aircrew, ground crew and flight surgeons revealed a high regard for the operational capability demonstrated by the King Stallion. This customer assessment is a prerequisite to Milestone C and is intended to minimize risk to successfully pass the US Marine Corps operational evaluation (OPEVAL) phase for a future full-rate production decision.
The operational testing was based at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center (DFC) in West Palm Beach, Florida, where CH-53K development flight test is continuing to make excellent progress, with all four engineering development model (EDM) aircraft in flight status.
October 28, 2016