The Department of Defense earlier this month approved a Navy request to begin production on the CH-53K King Stallion, the powerful new helicopter set to replace the workhorse Super Stallion, which has been in service since 1981.
At a program cost of roughly $131million for each of the 200-aircraft order, the Marines expect their new choppers to be a massive improvement over the old Super Stallions.
‘They’re not even in the same galaxy,’ Colonel Henry Vanderborght, the Marines H-53 program manager, said at a recent defense conference, according to AIN. ‘The capability we’re going to field now is eye-watering.’
The King Stallion is specifically designed for ‘high and hot’ conditions that make flight more challenging.
The new helicopter triples the payload capacity of the old Super Stallion in those conditions, for a 27,000-pound payload capacity that allows the King Stallion to transport two fully armored Humvees or one LAV-25 amphibious armored reconnaissance vehicle.
The heavier carrying capacity is needed to operate in desert environments as Humvee armor has steadily gotten heavier, upping the vehicles’ weight from 5,500 to 8,500 pounds in the 1990s to 12,000 pounds today.
The King Stallion will also introduce a fly-by-wire flight control to improve safety. The electronic flight controls replace the manual controls on the Super Stallions.
‘In the CH-53E there’s, no kidding, an iron rod that goes all the way from the pilot’s hand to the flight control surface,’ Vanderborght, who flew the craft for years, told Naval Aviation News. he said.
‘You’re coming in at night and you’re trying to land that huge aircraft and a dust bubble engulfs you and you lose sight of the ground.’