First External Load

April 20 Lockheed Martin announced the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has achieved its first external lift flight by successfully carrying a 12,000-pound/5,443-kg external load.

As testing ramps up both of the current flying prototypes will be exercised to expand the external load envelope
As testing ramps up both of the current flying prototypes will be exercised to expand the external load envelope

«Achieving our first external lift signifies another milestone for the CH-53K program», said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s Vice President of CH-53K Programs. «Our flight envelope expansion efforts remain on track, and we continue to make good progress toward our initial operational test assessment later this year, and ultimately full aircraft system qualification».

The first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters achieved their first flights on October 27, 2015, and January 22, 2016, respectively. To date these helicopters have achieved over 50 flight hours combined including one flight at speeds over 140 knots/161 mph/260 km/h. The third and fourth King Stallion aircraft will join the flight test program this summer.

As the King Stallion flight test program proceeds, both of the current flying aircraft will be exercised to expand the external load envelope. Initial external payloads weighing 12,000 pounds/5,443 kg will be flown first in hover and then incrementally to speeds up to 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h. The aircraft will then carry 20,000 pound/9,072 kg and 27,000 pound/12,247 kg external payloads.

The CH-53K King Stallion is equipped with single, dual and triple external cargo hook capability that will allow for the transfer of three independent external loads to three separate landing zones in support of distributed operations in one single sortie without having to return to a ship or other logistical hub. The three external cargo hooks include a single center point hook with a 36,000 pound/16,329 kg capability and dual-point hooks each capable of carrying up to 25,200 pound/11,430 kg.

The system features an electrical load release capability from the cockpit and cabin, and a mechanical load release capability at each of the pendant locations. An auto-jettison system is incorporated to protect the aircraft in the event of a load attachment point failure.

«It is exciting to have achieved our first external lift, another important step towards fielding the most powerful U.S. military helicopter», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps Program Manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters. «Our program continues on pace to deploy this incredible heavy lift capability to our warfighters».

Sikorsky Aircraft, a Lockheed Martin company, is developing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps. The CH-53K King Stallion maintains similar physical dimensions and «footprint» as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, but will more than triple the payload to 27,000 pounds/12,247 kg over 110 nautical miles/126.6 miles/204 km under «high hot» ambient conditions.

Features of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

The CH-53K King Stallion achieved its first external lift flight, successfully carrying a 12,000 pound/5,443-kg external load


General Characteristics

Number of Engines 3
Engine Type T408-GE-400
T408 Engine 7,500 shp/5,595 kw
Maximum Gross Weight (Internal Load) 74,000 lbs/33,566 kg
Maximum Gross Weight (External Load) 88,000 lbs/39,916 kg
Cruise Speed 141 knots/162 mph/261 km/h
Range 460 NM/530 miles/852 km
AEO* Service Ceiling 14,380 feet/4,383 m
HIGE** Ceiling (MAGW) 13,630 feet/4,155 m
HOGE*** Ceiling (MAGW) 10,080 feet/3,073 m
Cabin Length 30 feet/9.1 m
Cabin Width 9 feet/2.7 m
Cabin Height 6.5 feet/2.0 m
Cabin Area 264.47 feet2/24.57 m2
Cabin Volume 1,735.36 feet3/49.14 m3

* All Engines Operating

** Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect

*** Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect