CH-53K he­li­copter achieves first flight


Siko­rsky Air­craft Corp. re­cently an­nounced the suc­cess­ful first flight of the US Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stal­lion heavy-lift he­li­copter pro­toype, known as Engi­neer­ing De­vel­op­ment Model-1 (EDM-1). The 30-minute flight sig­nals the be­gin­ning of a 2,000-hour flight test pro­gramme us­ing four test air­craft.

“EDM-1’s first flight sig­ni­fies an­other ma­jor mile­stone for the CH-53K he­li­copter pro­gramme,” said Mike Torok, Siko­rsky’s CH-53K Pro­gram Vice Pres­i­dent. “Hav­ing in­de­pen­dently tested the air­craft’s many com­po­nents and sub­sys­tems, in­clud­ing in­te­grated sys­tem level test­ing on the ground test ve­hi­cle, we are now mov­ing on to be­gin full air­craft sys­tem qual­i­fi­ca­tion via the flight test pro­gramme.”

Siko­rsky de­liv­ered the EDM-1 into the test pro­gramme at the com­pany’s West Palm Beach, Florida-based De­vel­op­ment Flight Cen­ter in late 2014. Dur­ing its 30-minute maiden flight the EDM-1 air­craft per­formed hover, side­ward, rear­ward and for­ward flight con­trol in­puts while in ground ef­fect hover up to 30 feet above the ground.

As the flight test pro­gramme pro­ceeds, the EDM-1 will be joined by an ad­di­tional three EDM air­craft to fully ex­pand the King Stal­lion’s flight en­ve­lope over the course of the three-year flight test pro­gramme.

“We have en­tered a much an­tic­i­pated phase in this de­vel­op­men­tal pro­gramme,” said Col. Hank Van­der­borght, US Marine Corps Pro­gram Man­ager for Heavy Lift He­li­copters. “We have ex­pe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant learn­ing at the sys­tem and sub­sys­tem lev­els, which con­tin­ues to build our con­fi­dence in the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the 53K. With first flight be­hind us, we look for­ward to ex­e­cu­tion of the de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tional test­ing and the de­ploy­ment of this in­cred­i­ble heavylift ca­pa­bil­ity to our warfight­ers.”

Siko­rsky, with sup­port of oth­ers in the in­dus­try, is de­vel­op­ing the CH-53K King Stal­lion heavy-lift he­li­copter for the US Marine Corps. The CH-53K King Stal­lion he­li­copter will main­tain sim­i­lar phys­i­cal di­men­sions as its pre­de­ces­sor, the three­engine CH-53E Su­per Stal­lion he­li­copter, but will nearly triple the pay­load to 27,000 pounds over 110 nau­ti­cal miles un­der ‘high hot’ am­bi­ent con­di­tions.

Fea­tures of the CH-53K he­li­copter in­clude a mod­ern glass cock­pit, fly-by-wire flight con­trols, fourth-gen­er­a­tion ro­tor blades with an­hedral tips, a low-main­te­nance elas­tomeric ro­tor head, up­graded en­gines, a lock­ing, United States Air Force pal­let com­pat­i­ble cargo rail sys­tem; ex­ter­nal cargo han­dling im­prove­ments, sur­viv­abil­ity en­hance­ments, and im­proved re­li­a­bil­ity, main­tain­abil­ity and sup­port­a­bil­ity.

The US Depart­ment of De­fense’s Pro­gram of Record re­mains at 200 CH-53K air­craft with an ini­tial op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity in 2019. Even­tual pro­duc­tion quan­ti­ties would be de­ter­mined year-by-year over the life of the pro­gramme based on fund­ing al­lo­ca­tions set by Congress and the US Depart­ment of De­fense ac­qui­si­tion pri­or­i­ties. The Marine Corps in­tends to stand up eight ac­tive duty squadrons, one train­ing squadron, and one re­serve squadron to sup­port op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments.

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