Aerial Warfare

US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Helicopter Arrives at MCAS Yuma, Arizona

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US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Helicopter Arrives at MCAS Yuma, Arizona

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US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Helicopter Arrives at MCAS Yuma, Arizona
US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Helicopter Arrives at MCAS Yuma, Arizona

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, welcomed its inaugural fleet of CH-53K King Stallions helicopter, June 7, 2024. The CH-53K arriving to MCAS Yuma, is a historic milestone which represents the first time that Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 has all of Marine Corps’ Type Model Series aircraft based out of one location, significantly advancing the squadron’s capabilities. Previously based out of MCAS New River, North Carolina, where initial testing was conducted, the CH-53Ks now join VMX-1 alongside the F-35B Lightning II, MV-22 Osprey, UH-1Y Venom, and AH-1Z Viper aircraft. VMX-1 specializes in the operational test and evaluation of the Marine Corps’ fixed-wing, tilt-rotor, rotary-wing aircraft, as well as Unmanned Aerial Systems and aviation command and control systems. The CH-53K is notable for its maximum external lift capability of 36,000 pounds, air-to-air refueling and reduced shipboard footprint it also lowered operation costs per aircraft and fewer direct maintenance man hours per flight hour. Initially assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 366.

The CH-53K underwent various periods of sea trails aboard an amphibious assault ship by 2020. Shortly after the trails, the U.S. Navy approved full rate production of the aircraft in order to supply to the Marine Corps. It’s important to know that VMX-1 is one of the few Marine Corps units that have the CH-53K King Stallion along with HMH Squadrons. In January 2023, VMX-1 achieved another historical milestone by successfully lifting a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, as part of “Helicopter Support Team Operations”. In April 2024, VMX-1 took that experiment one step further by refueling the CH-53K while carrying the F-35C Lightning II up the east coast of the United States. The operational testing that VMX-1 has been conducting with the CH-53K thus far is a testament to the importance of the squadron and shows how powerful of an asset it is to the Marine Corps.

A CH-53K King Stallion with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, flies into Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, June 7, 2024. Before today, VMX-1 had a separate detachment of CH-53s at MCAS New River, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jade K. Venegas)
A CH-53K King Stallion with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, flies into Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, June 7, 2024. Before today, VMX-1 had a separate detachment of CH-53s at MCAS New River, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jade K. Venegas)

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Theodore Young, CH-53K staff noncommissioned officer in charge with VMX-1 explains, “The mission (of VMX-1) is to test new software or aircraft components or mission system configurations to make sure they work. To ensure that the interoperability is there before it hits the fleet Marine force. It’s the only true heavy lift aircraft that the military owns and its capabilities are pretty unique as far as what it can bring the fight. In terms of assault support, troop transport and external lift. It’s really a jack of all trades when it comes to support missions.”

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles D. Sasser, maintenance chief, VMX-1, says, “we’ll be able to incorporate the CH-53Ks into the current testing that we’re doing for advanced future operations.” He added, “I think it’s important for the command here as far as the higher echelon of VMX-1, that now that all of the testing for individual aircraft is co located under one roof, when you look towards the future of the Marine Corps, we can now test things together. So, you can have 53K supporting F-35 or working with the MV-22s or the UH-1Ys. We can set things up and test things with multiple platforms in one location.”

The detachment at MCAS New River is scheduled to moved out to Yuma. In the near future VMX-1 can expect their team of pilots and crew to grow as they continue to learn the maximum capabilities of the CH-53K. The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion (Sikorsky S-95)[2] is a heavy transport helicopter designed and produced by Sikorsky Aircraft. The King Stallion is an evolution of the long running CH-53 series of helicopters which has been in continuous service since 1966, and features three up-rated 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider aircraft cabin than its predecessors. It is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the U.S. military. The arrival of the CH-53Ks to their home base of Yuma further underscores VMX-1’s commitment to advancing Marine Corps aviation capabilities, with all aircraft under VMX-1, as the Marine Corps only operational and test evaluation squadron, will continue to integrate with the Navy and other military units to enhance, test and demonstrate the capabilities CH-53K King Stallion.

US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Helicopter Arrives at MCAS Yuma, Arizona
A CH-53K King Stallion with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, is sprayed down with water and welcomed home at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, June 7, 2024. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jade K. Venegas)

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