Last August 3, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation announced the success of the completion of the CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Critical Design Review (CDR) event, signaling the program is ready to proceed to assembly, test and evaluation.
The joint Sikorsky/Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) CH-53K helicopter program team hosted a meeting in late July along with stakeholders and key collaborators from the government and the industry for an in-depth aircraft design review. The CH-53K team successfully demonstrated that the design meets the system requirements, setting the stage for the next phase of the program. Review participants included members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, NAVAIR, Sikorsky Aircraft, and 21 major industrial partners who displayed component exhibits that augmented technical presentations.
The CH-53K helicopter team has successfully completed numerous major reviews over the past four years, including the System Requirements Review (SRR), System Functional Review (SFR), System Preliminary Design Review (PDR), 77 supplier-level Critical Design Reviews (CDR’s), 64 supplier and internal software reviews, and 16 sub-system CDRs.
Over 93% of the design has been released for manufacturing. System-level performance projections indicate all seven Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) will be achieved with adequate risk mitigation margin built-in for subsequent phases of the program. The team is ready to move into fabrication and assembly of test articles, component qualification, and flight test.
The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under ”hot/high” ambient conditions. The CH-53K helicopter’s maximum gross weight (MGW) with internal loads is 74,000 pounds compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E aircraft. The CH-53K’s MGW with external loads is 88,000 pounds as compared to 73,500 for the CH-53E helicopter.
Features of the CH-53K helicopter include: a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability. The program is expected to achieve the Initial Operational Capability milestone in FY18.
Sikorsky has been building CH-53 helicopters for the Marine Corps since the CH-53A aircraft was introduced in 1963. The heavy lift mission is currently performed by the Sikorsky CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter and CH-53D SEA STALLION helicopter models that have logged a cumulative total of 1.37 million flight hours in over 40 years.