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King Stallion heavy transport helicopter completes inflight refuelling tests

written by Dylan Nicholson | June 10, 2020

A CH-53K King Stallion helicopter begins its ascent at the 2018 Berlin Air Show (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)

The CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopter has successfully completed several inflight refuelling tests with a United States Marine Corp KC-130J Super Hercules tanker.

The test flight took place at the beginning of April off the east coast of the United States and lasted several hours.

The Sikorsky family of CH-53 transport helicopters has been newly developed and the refuelling test marked another major milestone for its progress.

The aircraft developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky and Rheinmetall, has also been offered to the German armed forces in response to its request for tender for a new heavy transport helicopter.
The CH-53K’s advanced fly-by-wire flight control significantly reduces the strain on the crew during inflight refuelling operations. This was confirmed during the recently conducted flight tests. The ability to refuel in mid-air is a requirement for covering long distances without having to make intermediate stops, and substantially expands the CH-53K’s operational flexibility.
This means that it can be redeployed to distant areas of operation, for instance, and remain aloft for extended periods. The helicopter can carry more personnel and materiel for longer distances and under more challenging operational conditions than any other aircraft of its kind.
Full-scale production of the CH-53K has begun at the Sikorsky plant in Connecticut, as planned. In all, 31 aircraft are currently at different stages of completion. The first USMC CH-53K squadron is expected to be operational by 2023/24.

In Germany the CH-53K is now in the running for the Bundeswehr’s “Schwerer Transporthubschrauber STH” procurement project; the decision of which heavy transport helicopter to buy is expected to come at the beginning of 2021.

The first aircraft could be delivered starting in 2024, thus enabling a seamless transition from the current CH-53G fleet, coupled with training of personnel and putting the necessary logistics in place necessary for operating in Germany.

By this time, the CH53 helicopters supplied to the USMC will already be fully operational, and Marine flight crews and maintenance technicians will be able to draw on their experience to assist in initial training of Bundeswehr personnel.

The transition from the CH-53G now in service with the Bundeswehr to the new STH fleet of heavy transport helicopters is to be complete by 2032.

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