Already known to be a heavy-lift helicopter, the newest CH-53 puts literly an extra Kilo to its name. Manufacturer Sikorsky started flight testing the CH-53K Super Stallion, the company announced on 10 February 2014.
The first engine power-up and rotor-spin of the prototype CH-53K – the Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) – took place on 24 January 2014 at the West Palm Beach facility in Florida, but it was not until this week the test was made public.
Now anchored to the ground at its remote outdoor test site, the 44,000-pound GTV aircraft is outfitted at more than 1,300 points with sensors that will measure and verify the ability to operate safely under its own power. The GTV will undergo ground testing for approximately two years with both Sikorsky and US Marine Corps test pilots at the controls.
Once the so-called Bare Head testing is completed, Sikorsky will mount seven main rotor blades and four tail rotor blades onto the GTV. During this second test phase, Sikorsky will conduct extensive aircraft system checks leading to a formal Pre-Flight Acceptance Test required to clear the first flight aircraft for flight testing.
Four additional test aircraft are being prepared for flight test, commencing in late 2014. During the three-year flight test program, Sikorsky will continue to evaluate the GTV for long-term endurance of the engines and dynamic components, survivability, and maintenance practices.
The 88,000 pound (39,916 kg) CH-53K is being developed for the US Marine Corps. It is supposed to be able to carry three times the external load of the current CH-53E, with the Kilo version transporting 27,000 pounds over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles under so-called high-hot ambient conditions.
About 200 CH-53Ks are expected to enter service with the Marines, with Initial Operational Capability expected by 2019.