Patuxent River Welcomes CH-53K to Flight Line
(Source: US Naval Air Systems Command; issued July 05, 2017)
To reach Pax River, the presumably empty CH-53K helicopter flew a distance of about 810 miles in six flight hours, but needed two en-route fuel stops, which does not appear to evidence a particularly impressive range. (Navair photo)
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- The first CH-53K King Stallion to touch down at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland arrived June 30. Relocated from Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, it is the first of seven aircraft expected to arrive over the next 12 months.

At NAS Patuxent River, the helicopter will undergo various flight quality, ground and avionics test events. This particular CH-53K is an Engineering Development and Manufacturing Model (EDM), specifically designed to demonstrate the capabilities of the platform throughout the testing process. The helicopter will be operated and maintained by a joint team of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, NAVAIR and Sikorsky pilots, aircrew, engineers and maintainers.

“With each flight hour logged on this platform, we are one step closer to bringing our nation’s most powerful helicopter to the Marines,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Hank Vanderborght, program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

The successful ferry flight follows the Milestone C decision in March, approving the program to proceed with low-rate initial production. CH-53K production is expected to begin Summer 2017, and initial operational capability and initial operational test and evaluation are on pace for 2019.

“This is an exciting moment for the program; transitioning the aircraft to Pax River is the result of thousands of hours of dedicated service by the government and industry teams,” Vanderborght said.

With more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin than its predecessor (CH-53E Super Stallion), the CH-53K’s payload capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from an internally loaded High Mobility, Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or the European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, it can handle up to three independent external loads at once, which gives mission flexibility and system efficiency.

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CH-53K King Stallion Flight Testing Begins Transition to Patuxent River Naval Air Station
(Source: Lockheed Martin; issued July 05, 2017)
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- Lockheed Martin today announced the CH-53K King Stallion program has successfully completed its first extended "cross country" flight from Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Florida, facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. This is the first of several such flights that will occur during 2017 and 2018 as the CH-53K flight test program transitions to the flight test facilities at Patuxent River (PAX).

The CH-53K helicopter flew on June 30 from Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach to PAX, a distance of approximately 810 miles. Total flight time was six hours, with two en route fuel stops at Naval Air Station Mayport, Florida, and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

"This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer's facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing," said Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President, CH-53K Programs. "This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps."

The four CH-53K Engineering Development Model (EDM) aircraft have already completed more than 450 hours of flight testing at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, and continue to drive to the edges of the operational envelope with both internal and external loads. The flight test program will continue to operate as it has from the beginning under an Integrated Test Team (ITT) that is comprised of Sikorsky, U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) personnel. Testing will continue in both locations, West Palm Beach and Patuxent River throughout the transition period.

"Bringing the CH-53K flight test program to PAX is an exciting milestone; many of the employees dedicated to its advancement now have the opportunity to work right down the street from it," said Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

In April, the CH-53K King Stallion Program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) and achieved a Milestone C decision that approves funding for low rate initial production.

The CH-53K provides unmatched heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E that it replaces. With the increased payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin compared to the predecessor CH-53E, the CH-53K's increased payload capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from multiple U.S. Air Force standard 463L pallets to an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or a European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, the CH-53K can carry up to three independent external loads at once providing incredible mission flexibility and system efficiency.

The CH-53K offers enhanced safety features for the warfighter. Safety is enhanced with full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management that reduces pilot workload and enables the crew to focus on mission execution because the CH-53K all but "flies itself." Features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing that all permit the pilot to confidently focus on the mission at hand.

Further, the CH-53K has improved reliability and maintainability that exceeds 89 percent mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than the legacy CH-53E.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The first six of the 200 Program of Record aircraft are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the Marine Corps. Two additional aircraft, the first low rate initial production aircraft, are under long lead procurement for parts and materials, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2020. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.


Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 97,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

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