CH-53K IOC pushed back to 2021 for multiple design deficiencies

CH-53K King Stallion approved for Full Rate Production and deployment

By Dario Leone
Jan 2 2023
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The CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter has entered Full Rate Production and its deployment phase.

The CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter has entered Full Rate Production (FRP) and its deployment phase, following a decision review by Frederick J. Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.

FRP occurs at the end of Low Rate Initial Production following a review assessing the results of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E), Live Fire Test and Evaluation, production readiness reviews, risk, and affordability analyses. On Dec. 21, the Acquisition Decision Memorandum was signed, authorizing entry of the CH-53K into FRP.

FRP is an important milestone to the H-53 Heavy Lift Program Office (PMA-261), as it allows the program to proceed beyond LRIP and begin increasing procurement quantities, thereby gaining production efficiencies and reducing unit costs.

“We have successfully demonstrated the performance and reliability of this aircraft,” said Col. Kate Fleeger, PMA-261 program manager, in NAVAIR news release. “With FRP we will continue to build on the strong manufacturing, sustainment and support that has been established for the CH-53K.”

The US Marine Corps (USMC) continues to execute its transition from the CH-53E to the CH-53K and is on schedule to declare Full Operational Capability in FY2029.

PMA-261 manages the cradle to grave procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the entire family of H-53 heavy lift helicopters.

The CH-53K is the USMC heavy lift replacement for the CH-53E. The most powerful helicopter in the Department of Defense, the CH-53K is a new-build helicopter that will expand the fleet’s ability to move more material, more rapidly throughout the area of responsibility using proven and mature technologies.

Designed to lift 27,000 lbs/12,247 kg at a mission radius of 110 nautical miles (203 km), in Navy high/hot environments, the CH-53K is capable of lifting almost triple the baseline CH-53E lift capability. It is also designed to have a smaller shipboard footprint, lower operating costs per aircraft, and less direct maintenance man hours per flight hour. The CH-53K is currently on track for first fleet deployment in FY2024, in alignment with Marine Corps schedules and requirements. The USMC’s procurement objective is 200 helicopters.

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps / U.S. Navy


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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