At the beginning of February 2023, Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift cargo helicopter performed a series of evaluation flights at sea. The example of the rotorcraft, assigned to the US Navy, successfully completed its sea trials while operating aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24).
The CH-53K King Stallion is the newest development of the successful and well-known CH-53 rotorcraft family. Prototype of the first helicopter of that type, designated YCH-53A, performed its maiden flight on 14th October 1964. Two years later, the CH-53 Sea Stallion began its operational service with the United States armed forces. Shortly after, the helicopter opened its combat record with the first CH-53 deployed to Vietnam in January of 1967.
Through the years, the CH-53 rotorcraft family proved its value as a heavy-lift helicopter, able to carry different kinds of payload, such as damaged aircraft. The rotorcraft was also widely used for combat search and rescue missions, special operations, airborne mine countermeasures, as well as for US presidential flights.
Different variants of the Sea Stallion helicopter were – and in some countries still are – operated by the United States Air Force, the US Navy, the US Marine Corps (USMC), Germany, Austria, Mexico, Israel and Iran. Its next derivative, designated CH-53E Super Stallion was introduced in 1981 and is operated by the USMC, the US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Forces.
The CH-53K variant is the latest upgrade of that proven design. That helicopter was created by the Sikorsky company in the mid-2000s, as a proposal for the USMC that wanted to upgrade the existing fleet of the CH-53E.
In 2012, the first prototype for ground testing was delivered to the USMC. The helicopter performed its maiden flight on 27th October 2015 and two and a half years later, the first serial example of the CH-53K was handed over to the USMC.
Although the initial date for achieving ´combat ready´ status by the CH-53K was set for late 2019, the helicopter is still undergoing operational evaluation with the USMC. On 22nd April 2022, ´initial operational capability´ status was officially announced.
Apart from the USMC, that new variant of the CH-53 rotorcraft will be also delivered to Israel, following the contract concluded in December of 2021. In addition, interest in acquiring the CH-53K was recently expressed by Japan.
Cover photo: A Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter flys over the Atlantic Ocean during flight operation aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Feb. 7, 2023. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Bellino)
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