CH-53K King Stallion starts transition to Naval Air Station
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. Lockheed Martin announced that its CH-53K King Stallion cargo helicopter program has successfully completed its first extended "cross-country" flight from Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Florida, facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the first of several such flights that will occur during 2017 and 2018 as the CH-53K flight test program transitions to the flight-test facilities at Patuxent River.
The CH-53K helicopter flew on June 30 from Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach to Patuxent River, a distance of approximately 810 miles. Lockheed Martin clocked the total flight time at six hours, with two fuel stops at Naval Air Station Mayport, Florida, and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President, CH-53K programs, said of the flight: "This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer's facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing."
The CH-53K helicopter is designed to handle three times the lift of the CH-53E aircraft, which it is replacing. With the increased payload capability and an internal cabin 12 inches wider than its predecessor, the CH-53K's can carry a variety of relevant payloads ranging from multiple U.S. Air Force standard 463L pallets to an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee) or a European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, the CH-53K can carry up to three independent external loads at once.
The CH-53K is equipped with full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management, updates designed to reduce pilot workload and enable the crew to focus on mission execution. Additional enhancements to the CH-53K include advanced stability augmentation; flight-control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments; and tactile cueing that enables the pilot to focus on the mission at hand.
In April, the CH-53K King Stallion Program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) and achieved a Milestone C decision, which triggered funding for low-rate initial production.