Extremely powerful new Marine helicopter debuts in training exercise

An extremely powerful helicopter whose mechanical problems had delayed it from becoming operational finally deployed for its first maritime training exercise in August in the mountains of Idaho.

CH-53K King Stallion helicopters can externally carry up to 27,000 pounds for 110 nautical miles, making them three times more powerful than their predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion.

In practice, this means the King Stallion can transport light armored vehicles over long distances between ships and inland positions. The ability to carry heavy loads over long stretches of sea can be an asset as the threat of China hovers and the US military turns its attention to the Pacific Islands.

“For me, routine training with a VBL for external load is absolute[ly] mind-boggling”, Staff Sgt. Dakota Schneider, a crew chief instructor with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, said in a Marine Corps news release Thursday. “He has power for days; you can do whatever you want.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 conducted the exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base in southwest Idaho – away from the unit’s home in New River, North Carolina – to gain experience on varied terrain. The squadron’s deployment to Idaho lasted from August 2–24.

HMH-461, as the squadron’s name is abbreviated, deployed three King Stallions for the exercise, said Capt. Greg H. Kosiras, spokesman for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The purpose of the exercise was to increase expeditionary capabilities, increase aircrew maintenance and proficiency, promote unit cohesion and support the transition of the CH-53K fleet,” said Kosiras in the emailed statement.

It’s been a long road to getting the King Stallion up and running.

The Corps originally ordered it in 2008. The first helicopter was delivered to the Marine Corps in May 2018, with the goal of having it in the fleet by the end of 2019.

But by February 2019, testing had revealed more than 100 mechanical issues. One of the main concerns was that the engines were sucking in their own dirty exhaust, leading to engine overheating and system stalling, among other issues.

In September 2020, Sikorsky – the Lockheed Martin subsidiary that manufactures both the King Stallion and its predecessor – said it had solved nearly all of its mechanical issues.

The helicopter was ready for its first official fleet mission in September 2021, when the Maritime Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron used it get over a stuck navy helicopter in the White Mountains of California.

The King Stallion had to take on the mission because the Navy, National Guard, and other Navy squadrons could not lift the 15,200-pound Navy plane using other helicopters.

After long testing and trainingthe body finally declared the King Stallion operational in April.

“The benefits are endless,” said Master Sgt. James Ganieany, chief of HMH-461’s airframe division, said in the Marine Corps press release. “We practice our external [lifts] with a light armored vehicle, and we never have power problems. HMH-461 made its first operational flight for the CH-53K in April 2022 and has been training with it ever since. »

HMH-461 is an affiliate of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the aviation combat element of II Marine Expeditionary Force.

The squadron goes by the nickname “Ironhorse” – an apt title for Marines who train with the King Stallion.

Irene Loewenson is a reporter for the Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editor in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the student newspaper’s editor.

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