After numerous delays, most notably with the helicopter’s gear box, the Sikorsky CH-53K program looks to be back on track.
The King Stallion helicopter made its first flight approximately six months ago at a test facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. A number of problems with the gearbox delayed this maiden flight – once in the summer of 2014, and then again one year later. Low-rate production is set to begin in February of next year due to the previous testing difficulties. United States Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is assuring that the gearbox problems have been completely resolved.
“The redesigned components are flying in the test aircraft and are performing well,”
NAVAIR stated in an email.
“The redesigned components are flying in both test assets currently flying, and no further changes are anticipated. There has been no impact to the flight schedule because the changes were made prior to first flight.”
Other than the gearbox, the part they referenced that is crucial to the success of the tests is the helicopter’s seven anhedral swept-tip composite main rotor blades. Both are now fully operational and being used on the first two engineering design model aircraft. Those working with the program have been using unnamed suppliers to find more efficient parts, as well as testing redesigned components on the ground before using them for flight.
The helicopter should be ready for the Marines to use sometime in 2019. It will replace the heavy-lift CH-53E, and should provide a big lift for our forces.
"When you look at the future of joint war-fighting concepts the US military has put together, the 53K is viewed as one of the very key enablers of those war-fighting concepts,"
said Col. Hank Vanderborght, the heavy-lift helicopters program manager of the Marine Corps.
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