The US Marine Corps (USMC) flew the first fleet flight of the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter on 15 January.
Announced by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on the same day, the milestone saw Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) fly the first non-developmental sortie from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina.
The first fleet flight of a Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion was announced on 19 January. (NAVAIR)
“The aircraft now enters a new phase of testing to train marines as they prepare for [initial] operational test and evaluation later this year,” NAVAIR said.
Sikorsky has been awarded USD550 million to build low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 4 CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters for the USMC, parent company Lockheed Martin announced on 26 October.
As previously noted by NAVAIR, the first operational test aircraft configured for initial operational capability was delivered in 2020 for use as an initial CH-53K operator and maintenance training, and along with three other aircraft to be delivered early this year, will support the execution of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E).
News of the latest milestone came three months after NAVAIR awarded the Lot 4 production deal, bringing to 24 the number of King Stallions now under contract out of a programme of record of 200 helicopters. Recent trials of the King Stallion have included air-to-air refuelling while carrying a 27,000 lb (12,247 kg) external load, sea trials aboard the USS
landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship, and flight testing in a degraded visual environment in Yuma, Arizona.