Sikorsky unveils the CH-53K helicopter
May 8, 2014, West Palm Beach, Fla. - Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today officially unveiled the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, the next generation in the CH-53 type series that the U.S. Marine Corps expects to begin operational service in 2019.
By Carey Fredericks
May 8, 2014, West Palm Beach, Fla. – Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today officially unveiled the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter,
the next generation in the CH-53 type series that the U.S. Marine Corps
expects to begin operational service in 2019.
During the rollout ceremony, attended by members of Congress, the
Department of Defense, major suppliers to the program, international
guests and company employees, the Commandant of the Marine Corps General
James F. Amos introduced the name for the new aircraft: the “King
“The rollout of the CH-53K helicopter introduces a
new era in Marine Corps aviation and is an exciting milestone in our
company’s 91 year history,” said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer. “The
CH-53K aircraft will effectively triple the external load carrying
capacity of the CH-53E aircraft — to more than 27,000 pounds over a
mission radius of 110 nautical miles. With its 88,000-pound maximum
gross weight, powerful new engines, lightweight composite structure, new
rotor blades and fly-by-wire flight controls, the CH-53K will have the
means to move troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher
altitude terrain, more quickly and effectively than ever before.”
GE Aviation’s all-new T408 engine plays a key role in the increased
capability of the CH-53K helicopter. Compared to the CH-53E aircraft’s
T64 turboshaft powerplant, the three new engines provide 57 percent more
power for approximately 20 percent lower specific fuel consumption. To
convert the extra engine power into torque and shaft horsepower within a
similarly-sized main gearbox, Sikorsky developed a new transmission
that efficiently transfers the engine power to the CH-53K helicopter’s
For increased lift, Sikorsky developed the largest
and most technologically advanced main rotor blade the company has ever
produced. At 35 feet span length, and almost three feet chord width,
the all-composite blade has 12 percent more surface area than the CH-53E
The new aircraft’s major airframe sections were built
from strong, lightweight advanced composite materials by Aurora Flight
Sciences, Exelis, GKN Aerospace and Spirit Aerosystems.
ensure exceptional flight handling qualities and low pilot workload, a
Rockwell Collins digital glass cockpit governs a fly-by-wire flight
control system developed by Sikorsky, UTC Aerospace Systems, Eaton and
The CH-53K is one of the first all-digitally designed
helicopters. This approach enabled Sikorsky to assemble the aircraft
inside a 3D virtual reality lab at its Stratford, Connecticut,
headquarters before prototype production began.
before you build’ approach allowed our engineers to work ‘inside’ the
helicopter,” said Maurer, “to verify assembly designs and correct issues
long before discovery and expensive rework on the assembly line.”
To ensure smart, affordable logistics support during the life of the
aircraft, Sikorsky and the government are applying methodology that will
enable the Marine Corps to analyze flight, maintenance and performance
data from every aircraft. By identifying trends across the fleet, the
Marines are expected to realize significant improvements in aircraft
readiness and reduced operational costs compared to the CH-53E fleet.
In April, Sikorsky began powered ground tests of the CH-53K aircraft
systems, such as rotors, drive, electrical, hydraulic, avionics and
flight controls. Hundreds of hours of powered ground tests will prepare
the CH-53K team for first flight at the end of 2014, and the start of a
three-year flight test program.
Per the current program
of record, the Marine Corps intends to order 200 CH-53K production
aircraft and stand up eight operational squadrons and one training
squadron to support the Marine Corps’ operational requirements. Eventual
production quantities would be determined year-by-year over the life of
the program based on funding allocations set by Congress and the U.S.
Department of Defense acquisition priorities.