In a first for the Marine Corps, Marines from Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) conducted over-the-horizon heavy lift and troop transport ship-to-shore operations aboard CH-53K King Stallions over the Atlantic Ocean, November 19-21. These exercises are a critical component of the Marine Corps’ future force operating concepts, such as expeditionary advanced base operations and distributed operations. VMX-1 is evaluating the King Stallion’s ability to meet program specification for the over-the-horizon heavy lift evolution tested the King Stallion’s capability to transport a 27,000 lbs. light armored vehicle (LAV-25) from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) to a landing zone ashore. While the troop transport evolution evaluated the King Stallion’s ability to move troops over-the-horizon to a location ashore and return to ship without refueling—covering as much as 220 nautical miles on their roundtrip.
“We have the most professional and capable individuals maintaining the aircraft and are also appreciative to the Blue-Green Team, who demonstrate the superb ability to operating harmoniously,” said VMX-1 CH-53K Detachment Operations Officer Maj. Joshua Banks.
“We are excited to continue advancing the Commandant’s vision of the future force by partnering with the Navy and finding ways to optimize how we operate and thrive in a strategic competition environment,” said VMX-1 Commanding Officer Col. Byron Sullivan. “We remain the nation’s naval expeditionary force; ready to fight in any clime or place at any time.”
Combat Logistics Battalion 24 (CLB-24) from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina provided personnel and equipment to assist VMX-1 with their testing, and sailors from the USS Iwo Jima assisted VMX-1 with shipboard and flight deck operations. The Marine Corps is progressing through initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the CH-53Ks prior to fielding them to the Fleet Marine Force. The pilots, maintainers, and contractors of VMX-1, the squadron tasked with conducting operational test and evaluation of Marine Corps aviation platforms and systems, play a significant role in shaping the tactics, techniques and procedures of CH-53K utilization. Additionally, VMX-1 personnel will put the aircraft through rigorous evaluations in order to determine its suitability and effectiveness before arriving to the fleet.
The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a heavy-lift cargo helicopter currently being produced by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It will feature a new digital glass cockpit with fly-by-wire controls and haptic feedback, HUMS, a new elastomeric hub system, and composite rotor blades to improve “hot and high” performance. The split torque gearbox with quill shafts started development around 2007.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. The USMC plans to receive 200 helicopters at a total cost of $25 billion. Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) testing started in April 2014; flight testing began with the maiden flight on 27 October 2015. In May 2018, the first CH-53K was delivered to the Marine Corps. The CH-53K is to surpass the capability of its predessor by carrying nearly 30% more than the CH-53E’s external payload of 27,000 lb (12,200 kg) over the same radius of 110 nmi (204 km). The CH-53K’s maximum gross weight will be 88,000 lb (39,900 kg), which is increased over the CH-53E’s 73,500 lb (33,300 kg).