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.
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