The US Marine Corps (USMC) has received the first of 200 Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters that are set to arrive over the coming years.
The milestone, which took place on 16 May, saw the corps accept the first helicopter to enter into the Supportability Test Plan (STP) that will be flown out of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
This STP involves a logistics assessment on the maintenance, sustainment, and overall support of the CH-53K, at the same time as validating maintenance procedures with USMC maintainers. It will ensure readiness and support on the flightline when the CH-53K enters service towards the end of 2019.
With the first production CH-53K having performed the type’s maiden overseas deployment, visiting Germany throughout the month of April and flying at the ILA Airshow, there are currently three production helicopters and four flying prototypes in the programme, as well as one ground-test vehicle. Further to these already assembled aircraft, there as 14 more in production (eight of which are under contract, with the remaining six expected to be under contract shortly).
With a further three helicopters expected to be delivered to the USMC through 2019, initial operating capability (IOC) for the type is due to be declared in December of that year. IOC is defined as having four aircraft that can deploy with trained crews and maintainers.
Low-rate initial production (LRIP) of 26 helicopters will run through four lots to the fourth quarter of 2023 (4Q23) . Full-rate production of 168 helicopters will begin with the awarding of Lot 5 in 4Q19 and run through to Lot 12 at the end of 2031.
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