Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion completed a two-week period of sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month.
Flight testing took place on the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp (LHD-1) and provided the first opportunity for the new heavy-lift transport helicopter to operate in a modern naval environment.
During the two-week long trials, the CH-53K performed launch and recovery, rotor start and shutdown and blade folding tests. The tasks were conducted in a variety of different wind speeds and directions relative to the aircraft.
The platform also underwent ship compatibility testing, which included towing the helicopter in the hanger and on the deck, ensuring the CH-53K fits in the areas of the vessel it will operate in. The testing also evaluated chain/tie-down procedures and made sure that aircraft maintenance can take place aboard the ship.
Col Jack Perrin, the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) H-53 Heavy-Lift Helicopter programme manager, said: “I’m very pleased with how the ship tests went… 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 [CH-53K] is now a “feet-wet” warrior from the sea,” Perrin added.
The CH-53K will now continue testing under its reprogrammed development timeline. Next year, the platform will complete developmental testing and will enter the operational test and evaluation (OT&E) phase. The platform is set embark on its first fleet deployment in 2023-2024.