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CH-53K passes operational test phase ahead of entry into service

Having recently cleared the IOT&E phase of its development, the CH-53K is now ready to enter service with the US Marine Corps later in 2022. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter has passed the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase of its development ahead of its entry into service in 2022.

A Sikorsky representative noted on 22 March that the event occurred earlier in the month, saying the King Stallion is on track to be fielded operationally by the US Marine Corps (USMC) later in the year.

News of the IOT&E milestone came two months after the USMC stood up Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 as the type's first operational unit on 15 January. Located at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina, HMH 461 had previously operated the King Stallion's CH-53E Super Stallion predecessor.

The USMC plans to field the CH-53K across eight active, one fleet replacement, two reserve, and two developmental/operational test squadrons. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW), which includes HMH 461, will be the first to transition, followed by the 1st, 3rd, and 4th MAWs, in that order. CH-53K full operating capability is scheduled for 2030 with the transition of the last active-component squadron.

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