The U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, announced April 22, 2022, that the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has achieved initial operational capability.
This plan supports Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger’s Force Design 2030 by improving capabilities and restructuring Marine Corps aviation for the future fight.
The King Stallion is built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.
In addition to meeting IOC criteria, the CH-53K successfully completed a thorough initial operational test and evaluation period that resulted in over 3,000 mishap free hours flown in various challenging environments and terrain.
The CH-53K is an optimized vertical, heavy lift, sea-based, long range solution for the naval force and will immediately provide nearly three times the lift capability of the CH-53E, with the ability to transport one hundred percent of the vertical Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Per the Commandant’s Force Design 2030 Annual Update, the CH-53K will complement connectors that will enable littoral maneuver and provide logistical support to a widely disaggregated naval force.
“The success to date of the CH-53K is a reflection of the hard work and effort by the Marines, sailors, and civilians at VMX-1, H-53 Program Office, and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, and the support we have received over many years from across the Department of the Navy and our industry partners,” said Wise.
The King Stallion boasts an engine that produces 57 percent more horsepower with 63 percent fewer parts relative to its predecessor, which translates to an expanded capability to deliver internal and external cargo loads, providing the commander a mobility and sustainment capability the MAGTF has never had before.
The most notable attribute of the King Stallion is its ability to maintain increased performance margins in a degraded aeronautical environment, for example at higher altitudes, hotter climates and carrying up to 27,000 pounds out to 110 nautical miles; whereas, the CH-53E would be limited to a 9,628-pound external load in the same environment.
The Marine Corps plans to deploy the first CH-53K Marine Expeditionary Unit detachment in fiscal year 2024, setting the initial conditions for sustained CH-53K deployments in support of MEUs.