US Marines complete CH-53K initial operational test & evaluation

Demonstrating its advanced capabilities in the fleet environment, the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter completed Initial Operational Test & Evaluation test vignettes (IOT&E) paving the way for the expected declaration by the U.S. Marine Corps of Initial Operational Capability (IOC) later this year and a Full Rate Production decision in 2023.

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, built four System Demonstration Test Article CH-53K helicopters and delivered them to the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1), in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to support the seven-month evaluation, which concluded in March.

“The performance of these intelligent aircraft during Marine-operated flight tests displays the CH‑53K’s operational effectiveness and ensures it will support Marines at the forefront of combat capability and heavy lift for decades to come,” said Bill Falk, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program director. “The CH‑53K delivers greater lift and endurance capabilities over the legacy aircraft. Its fly-by-wire system reduces pilot workload and enhances the ability to refuel in midair, which is critical to expanding the Marine Corps operational flexibility across all U.S. and allied military services, making the CH-53K a powerful asset for the Marines evolving missions.”

CH-53K Integrated and Operational Tests Completion

The completion of IOT&E testing follows several CH-53K program markers including:

  • Day and night time air-to-air refueling
  • Air-to-air refueling with 27,000 lb. external load
  • Sea trials with over 350 landings
  • Delivery of first six production aircraft

The CH-53K program is on track to achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2022. IOC is achieved when the first squadron receives:

  • Four CH-53K helicopters with the required personnel suitably trained and certified, and
  • Primary and support equipment and technical publications, including initial spares with interim repair support and initial training curricula, are in place and ready to deploy in accordance with U.S. Marine Corps standards.

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