This particular CH-53K is an Engineering Development and Manufacturing Model, specifically designed to demonstrate the capabilities of the platform throughout the testing process

On Jun. 30, the first Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland from Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The U.S. Navy said in a press release that it expects six more others to arrive over the next 12 months.

At NAS Patuxent River, several flight quality, ground and avionics test events will be undertaken on the helicopter. This particular CH-53K is an Engineering Development and Manufacturing Model (EDM), specifically designed to demonstrate the capabilities of the platform throughout the testing process.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 will be operating the aircraft together with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Sikorsky pilots, aircrew, engineers and maintainers.

“With each flight hour logged on this platform, we are one step closer to bringing our nation’s most powerful helicopter to the Marines,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Hank Vanderborght, program manager for NAVAIR Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

The successful ferry flight follows the Milestone C decision in March, that as we have previously explained approved the program to proceed with low-rate initial production. CH-53K production is expected to begin Summer 2017, and initial operational capability and initial operational test and evaluation are on pace for 2019.

“This is an exciting moment for the program; transitioning the aircraft to Pax River is the result of thousands of hours of dedicated service by the government and industry teams,” Vanderborght said.

With more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin than its predecessor (CH-53E Super Stallion), the CH-53K’s payload capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from an internally loaded High Mobility, Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or the European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, it can handle up to three independent external loads at once, which gives mission flexibility and system efficiency.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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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