Testing for the new US Marine Corps’ heavy lift helicopter, the CH-53K, is advancing rapidly. For the first time, on May 26, the test article successfully lifted a 20,000 lb load carried externally. External lifting tests, originally set for a May start, began in April instead.
The heavy lift helicopter test program began with a 12,000 lb external load lift and progressed to its most recent achievement after flight envelope testing at that weight. The program will now continue using the 20,000 lb weight, flying at higher speeds and expanding the flight envelope. The testing requirement calls for a 27,000 lb lift. The CH-53K has already flown at 140kts without an external load and at 80kts with one.
One of the two remaining operational lifting tests – a 27,000 lb external or carrying 12,000 lb externally for 110 nautical miles – should start before the end of 2016.
The CH-53K replaces the older CH-53E model, which had much less lifting capability, and should have an initial operational capability by 2019. The helicopter has also undergone live fire and component testing to prove it meets survivability requirements.
The CH-53K will start replacing the CH-53E in 2019.