The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion passed an air-to-air refueling test earlier this month, demonstrating its capability to support long-range logistics for the US Marines.
The CH-53K King Stallion is a large heavy-lift cargo helicopter which will replace the current fleet of CH-53E helicopters used by the US Marines to transport troops and equipment.
The test, which took 4.5 hours over the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, USA, was conducted with a KC-130J aerial refueling tanker.
“The aircraft went to the tanker this week and was very successful, proving it is a long-range vertical logistic workhorse,” said Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 heavy lift helicopters program manager.
According to the CH-53K test team, the wake survey test assessed the performance of the aircraft when flying behind the tanker in strong, turbulent air. The aircraft’s crew successfully plugged the drogue, behind the KC-130J.
The tests were performed at increasing closure rates to ensure the CH-53K can handle the forces on the refueling probe when contacting the drogue during aerial refueling.
“The aircraft was able to meet the desired performance for all engagements,” said Perrin. “The ‘K’ is the long-range enabler that we need now and into the future.”
The development program for the CH-53K King Stallion is moving towards completion of developmental test before operational test and evaluation in 2021 and first fleet deployment, which is expected in 2023-2024. This is several years later than the initially predicted operational launch of the helicopter in 2019, due to technical flaws found with its engine and gearboxes.