Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] Sikorsky Aircraft unit announced on July 5 it successfully completed the first extended flight test for its CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift cargo helicopter from its development facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (PAX) in Maryland.
The 810-mile, six-hour flight on June 30 was the first test of many to be conducted over the next two years as Sikorsky begins transferring its CH-53K aircraft to the flight test facilities at PAX. The Department of Defense currently has a program of record for 200 CH-53K helicopters, with six aircraft currently under contract and expected for delivery to the Marine Corps in 2018.
“This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer’s facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing,” Sikorsky’s Vice President of CH-53K Programs Dr. Michael Torok said in a statement. “This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps.”
The CH-53K offers three-times the heavy lift capability of the previous CH-53E model, and includes full authority fly-by-wire controls and mission management meant to reduce pilot workload and increase auto-pilot functions. The aircraft features advanced stability augmentation, and has been tested to exceed 89 percent mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than its predecessor.
Sikorsky’s four CH-53K Engineering Development Model aircraft have completed over 450 hours of flight testing at its West Palm Beach facility, and the program successfully achieved its Milestone C decision from the Defense Acquisition Board in April to begin low rate initial production.
The CH-53K flight test program will continue at both the Florida development center and PAX during this transition period, which is facilitated by a team including Sikorsky, U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command and Marine Corps personnel.
Sikorsky also hosted German aerospace industry representatives on the week of July 3 at its West Palm Beach facility to brief them on support opportunities as production begins on delivering CH-53K to German Armed Forces.