The U.S. Marine Corps has reported that Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallions of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 have participated in their first fleet exercise and met all expectations.
“The CH-53K is more powerful, safer and an easier-to-maintain helicopter,” said Lt. Col. Adam Horne, commanding officer of HMH 461, in a U.S.M.C news report on the flight. “That’ll allow each wing commander more capacity to sustain the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in an austere environment.”
The U.S. Marine Corps has ordered 200 CH-53K King Stallions to replace the older generation CH-53E Super Stallions. Photo U.S. Marine Corps
The CH-53K was issued its IOC (initial operating capability) in April 2022, with HMH 461 bring the first operational unit to receive the new variant. The King Stallion is already making a significant impact within the Corps.
“The benefits are endless,” said Staff Sgt. James Ganieany, airframes division chief for HMH 461. “We practice our external [lifts] with a light armoured vehicle [LAV], and we never have power issues.”
“Routinely training with a LAV for an external load, to me, is absolute mind boggling,” said Staff Sgt. Dakota Schneider, a crew chief instructor with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1. “It’s got power for days; you can do anything you want.”
Mountain Home, Idaho was selected as the first deployment for training with the CH-53K because it provided a different climate and terrain to North Carolina, HMH 461’s home state.
“We have a lot of environmental flying that we don’t get to do in New River, [North Carolina]” said Ganieany. “Canyons, mountains, desert, it’s a complete 180 of what we’re used to flying in.”
The CH-53K can fly at higher altitudes, for longer distances and in hotter conditions compared to the older CH-53E. The unit used these improved capabilities to assist in providing data for future CH-53K production and employment.
The U.S. Marine Corps expects to deploy the CH-53K to the fleet in 2023-2024. At present, the service has a procurement objective of 200 helicopters