The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift cargo helicopter completed a two-week period of sea trials in the Atlantic earlier this month. Testing took place on the USS Wasp, a landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship operated by the U.S. Navy. This was the first opportunity to see the aircraft working in a modern naval environment. According to the CH-53K integrated test team, the sea trials are a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the aircraft at sea.
“I’m very pleased with how the ship tests went,” said Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 helicopters program manager. “We were able to assess the K taking off and landing day, night, and with night vision goggles and it performed extremely well. The bulk of the testing was in launch and recovery and we nailed it every time, no matter what the wind/sea conditions were. The 53K is now a “feet-wet” warrior from the sea.”
Tests performed during the two weeks included: launch and recovery; rotor start and shutdown; blade fold; and shipboard compatibility testing – all in increasing wind speed and varying wind directions relative to the aircraft. Ship compatibility testing includes towing the aircraft around the deck and in the hangar, performing maintenance while aboard the ship, ensuring the aircraft fits in all the locations it needs to around the ship deck and hangar, and evaluating chain/tie-down procedures.
The CH-53K King Stallion is a helicopter currently being developed by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The King Stallion continues to execute within the reprogrammed CH-53K timeline, moving toward completion of developmental test, leading to initial operational test and evaluation in 2021 and first fleet deployment in 2023-2024. The design features three 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider aircraft cabin than previous CH-53 variants. It will be the largest and heaviest helicopter in the U.S. military.