STRATFORD, Conn., May 6 (UPI) -- Sikorsky Aircraft’s newest heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps, the CH-53K, has been officially unveiled and named the King Stallion.
The CH-53K is expected to enter operational service in 2019.
"The rollout of the CH-53K helicopter introduces a new era in Marine Corps aviation and is an exciting milestone in our company's 91-year history," Sikorsky President Mick Maurer said at a roll-out ceremony. "The CH-53K aircraft will effectively triple the external load carrying capacity of the CH-53E aircraft -- to more than 27,000 pounds over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles."
“With its 88,000-pound maximum gross weight, powerful new engines, lightweight composite structure, new rotor blades and fly-by-wire flight controls, the CH-53K will have the means to move troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher altitude terrain, more quickly and effectively than ever before."
The King Stallion features three GE Aviation T408 engines, which provide 57 percent more power with about 20 percent lower specific fuel consumption than engines on earlier CH-53 variants.
The aircraft’s main rotor blade is made of composite materials and is 35 feet long with 12 percent more surface area than the CH-53E blade.
Sikorsky said the CH-53K is one of the first all-digitally designed helicopters, assembled inside a 3D virtual reality lab before prototype production began.
"Our 'build-before-you-build' approach allowed our engineers to work 'inside' the helicopter," said Maurer, "to verify assembly designs and correct issues long before discovery and expensive rework on the assembly line."
Powered ground tests of aircraft systems began last month. First flight is scheduled for later this year, and will be followed by three years of flight tests.