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J C Menon

The CH-53K KING STALLION has recently completed a two-week period of sea trials onboard the USS WASP, a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship operated by the U.S. Navy.

“I’m very pleased with how the ship tests went,” said Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 helicopters programme manager. “We were able to assess the K taking off and landing day, night, and with night vision goggles and it performed extremely well.”

According to the CH-53K integrated test team, the sea trials are a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the aircraft at sea. Tests performed during the two weeks included: launch and recovery, rotor start and shutdown, blade fold and shipboard compatibility testing

All of this was conducted in increased wind speed and varying wind directions relative to the aircraft. “The bulk of the testing was in launch and recovery,” said Perrin.

“We nailed it every time, no matter what the wind/sea conditions were. The 53K is now a “feet-wet” warrior from the sea,” he added.

Ship compatibility testing includes towing the aircraft around the deck and in the hangar, performing maintenance while aboard the ship, ensuring the aircraft fits in all the locations it needs to and evaluating chain/tie-down procedures. The CH-53K within the reprogrammed timeline, moving toward completion of developmental test, leading to initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 and first fleet deployment in 2023-2024, according to Perrin. Full-scale production of the CH-53K has begun at the Sikorsky plant in Connecticut, with 31 aircraft currently at different stages of completion.

Next generation

The CH-53K was designed and built to the exacting standards of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) to replace the current fleet of CH-53E helicopters as its critical land and sea based logistics connector. The CH053K will allow the USMC and international militaries to move troops and equipment from ship to shore and to higher altitude terrain, more quickly and effectively than before. The CH-53K has recently completed several inflight refuelling tests with a USMC KC-130J SUPER HERCULES tanker. It is also being pitched for various export contracts including a competition against the CH-47 CHINOOK in Germany’s Heavy Transport Helicopter programme.