Sikorsky’s King Stallion rollout – come to the CH-53K party!

It isn’t often a new military helicopter is “revealed” to the public for the first time, so it’s a real event whenever it takes place. Sikorsky Aircraft staged such a happening May 5, when it rolled out the first flying CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, moments after Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos announced the new bird’s name — King Stallion.

An audience of invited guests was on hand to ooh and ahh as doors were pushed back to reveal the King, which looks very much like earlier versions of the H-53. Inside, however, a great deal of the aircraft is all-new, from its digital, “glass cockpit” to fly-by-wire controls to extensive use of composites in place of aluminum.

The CH-53K is touted as the largest, most powerful helicopter ever designed and built by Sikorsky, and perpetuates the line of H-53s in production since the 1960s. The huge helo is designed to meet a US Marine Corps requirement for a vertical lift aircraft able to deliver an externally-slung load of 13 1/2 tons a distance of 110 nautical miles, hover for 30 minutes, then return to base – at sea or on land.

Sikorsky claims no other helicopter in service today can match that feat, pointing out that current CH-53E Super Stallions carry 4 tons under similar conditions.

The King Stallion features new General Electric Aviation T408 engines, providing 57 percent more power than CH-53E engines with about 20 percent lower specific fuel consumption. New all-composite main rotor blades, new transmission design, and a powerful tail rotor assembly that provides more thrust than a S-76 helicopter’s main blades are also features of the King Stallion.

The aircraft displayed is the first of four System Development and Design (SDD) flight test aircraft, scheduled to begin flying later this year.

A total of 200 King Stallions is planned to be ordered for the Marine Corps, with the first aircraft becoming operational in 2019.

Photographers snap away as the audience gets its first view of the new CH-53K King Stallion.

Photographers snap away as the audience gets its first view of the new CH-53K King Stallion.

Externally similar to older CH-53E Super Stallions, the new King Stallion is, according to Sikorsky, an "all-new aircraft."

Externally similar to older CH-53E Super Stallions, the new King Stallion is, according to Sikorsky, an “all-new aircraft.”

Each all-composite rotor blade is 35 feet long, with a three-foot chord (width).

Each of the King Stallion’s seven all-composite rotor blades is 35 feet long, with a three-foot chord (width).

The aircraft is powered by three General Electric Aviation T408 engines.

The aircraft is powered by three General Electric Aviation T408 engines.

With rotors folded, the aircraft is the largest helicopter able to by lifted by elevators aboard US Navy assault ships and aircraft carriers.

With rotors folded, the H-53 is the largest helicopter able to by lifted by elevators aboard US Navy assault ships and aircraft carriers.

The CH-53K program is the only new helicopter development program now under way for the US Department of Defense.

The CH-53K program is the only new helicopter development program now under way for the US Department of Defense.

Signatures of those involved with the King Stallion program crowd the cover over the aircraft's auxiliary power unit.

Signatures of those involved with the King Stallion program crowd the cover over the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit.

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Col. Robert Pridgen (left), the Marines’ heavy-lift helicopter program manager, and Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos point to Pridgen's name on the door of the new CH-53K helicopter, along with his call sign "Sofa."

Col. Robert Pridgen (left), the Marines’ heavy-lift helicopter program manager, and Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos point to Pridgen’s name on the door of the new CH-53K helicopter, along with his call sign “Sofa.”

Sergei Sikorsky, son of legendary company founder and helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky, was on hand for the King Stallion's rollout. As a young man, Sergei Sikorsky was program manager for the CH-53G Super Stallion produced for Germany.

Sergei Sikorsky, son of legendary company founder and helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky, was on hand for the King Stallion’s rollout. As a young man, Sergei Sikorsky was program manager for the CH-53G Super Stallion produced for Germany.

HO5S-1 130122 was completed by Sikorsky in December 1952, and delivered to the US Marine Corps in January 1953. Believed to be the oldest airworthy Sikorsky helicopter, it was restored to its original form after many years of commercial service. The venerable aircraft was flown to Florida to be on hand for the debut of Sikorsky's newest helicopter.

HO5S-1 130122 was completed by Sikorsky in December 1952, and delivered to the US Marine Corps in January 1953. Believed to be the oldest airworthy Sikorsky helicopter, it was restored to its original form after many years of commercial service. The venerable aircraft was flown to Florida to be on hand for the debut of Sikorsky’s newest helicopter.

A ground test vehicle -- never meant to take to the air -- is a key element in the development of any new aircraft. This is the CH-53K GTV, tethered and tied down to prevent liftoff, at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in Jupiter, Florida.

A ground test vehicle — never meant to take to the air — is a key element in the development of any new aircraft. This is the CH-53K GTV, tethered and tied down to prevent liftoff, at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in Jupiter, Florida.

Sikorsky shares its Florida location with United Technologies stablemate Pratt & Whitney, which created the facility to test engines far from residential or commercial areas. Some indigenous residents remain, however.

Sikorsky shares its Florida location with United Technologies stablemate Pratt & Whitney, which created the facility to test engines far from residential or commercial areas. Some indigenous residents remain, however.

 

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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
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