Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. , officially unveiled the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, the next generation in the CH-53 type series that the U.S. Marine Corps expects to begin operational service in 2019.
During the rollout ceremony, attended by members of Congress, the Department of Defense, major suppliers to the program, international guests and company employees, the Commandant of the Marine Corps General F. Amos introduced the name for the new aircraft: the “King Stallion.”
“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,” said Sikorsky President Mick Maurer.
“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,” he added.
GE Aviation’s all-new T408 engine plays a key role in the increased capability of the CH-53K helicopter. Compared to the CH-53E aircraft’s T64 turboshaft powerplant, the three new engines provide 57 percent more power for approximately 20 percent lower specific fuel consumption. To convert the extra engine power into torque and shaft horsepower within a similarly-sized main gearbox, Sikorsky developed a new transmission that efficiently transfers the engine power to the CH-53K helicopter’s main rotors.
For increased lift, Sikorsky developed the largest and most technologically advanced main rotor blade the company has ever produced. At 35 feet span length, and almost three feet chord width, the all-composite blade has 12 percent more surface area than the CH-53E blade.
The new aircraft’s major airframe sections were built from strong, lightweight advanced composite materials by Aurora Flight Sciences, Exelis, GKN Aerospace and Spirit Aerosystems.
And to ensure exceptional flight handling qualities and low pilot workload, a Rockwell Collins digital glass cockpit governs a fly-by-wire flight control system developed by Sikorsky, UTC Aerospace Systems, Eaton and BAE.
The CH-53K is one of the first all-digitally designed helicopters. This approach enabled Sikorsky to assemble the aircraft inside a 3D virtual reality lab at its Stratford, Connecticut, headquarters before prototype production began.