That process is about halfway to the 200-hour goal,
and inspections have been completed along the way to
check its progress. So far, “everything’s looking good,”
“We’ve got the gearbox for the first flight aircraft
already modified with the new design,” he said. “We’ll
get that first aircraft ready to go.
“We’ve certainly had delays as a result of that,” he
added. “That’s largely behind us now. We just have to
finish out that validation.”
That certainly is good news for the Marine Corps, as
the service desperately needs the King Stallion fielded as
quickly as possible. Vanderborght said the Marines have
all sorts of options when they want to kill a target —
take your pick between the Hornet, Harrier or H- 1 —
but there’s only one option when it comes to heavy lift,
and that is the CH- 53.
Right now, the Marines use the CH-53E Super
Stallion for that job. It is a capable aircraft in its own
right, but as it gets older and equipment gets heavier,
the Marines are in need of some bigger muscle — and
that is what the CH-53K will provide.
The future requirement for the Marines is to be able
to move three battalions to shore, two of them by surface using Landing Craft Air Cushions or Assault
Amphibious Vehicles, but the third is meant to go by
helicopter, and “that’s where the 53K comes in,”
The CH-53K could be a “key enabler” in humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the Southeast
Asia region, where the Navy is focusing its attention.
Today, pallets of gear and supplies are brought in by
giant Air Force aircraft like C-5s and C-17s, and then
those big pallets have to be broken down into smaller
pallets that a CH-53E can handle — a time-consuming
The CH-53K, however, will be able to take on those
big pallets and send them straight to a forward operating
base, or, in the case of disaster relief, straight into the
area where it is needed, “whether it’s food, water, medical supplies — you name it,” Vanderborght said.
Another advantage it has over the Echo is it has
triple-hook capability for more external loads. The
CH-53E only goes up to two.
The program had to get all this extra power without
increasing the size of the aircraft. After all, the Navy
was not going to redesign all of its ships to accommodate a bigger helicopter.
“The main rotor diameter is the exact same size,”
Vanderborght said. “The cabin is actually 12 inches
wider than that of the Echo inside, and that’s to accom-
modate those pallets.”
It was no small feat pulling that off, Torok said.
“That really was the challenge — to fit in that footprint and deliver basically three times the lifting capability of the Echo,” he said. “That really was the technology behind the design: to fit behind those constraints, and actually the logistics footprint, the goal
was to be the same or less than the Echo, in many cases
10 percent less.
“Really, at the core of that was a new rotor system, the
gearbox, and some more powerful engines,” he added.
“It’s really the integration of those technologies that
allows you to get that performance.” ;
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 34 SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015
Sikorsky unveiled Engineering Development Model- 2, one
of four CH-53Ks that will participate in the flight test program, on May 5, 2014. Despite some recent hiccups,
including the sale of its manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft,
the King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is expected to make
its first flight late this year.