Made by Lockheed Martin Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the CH-53K King Stallion will be the Marine Corps’ next-gen heavy lift helicopter, replacing the CH-53E Super Stallion.

Slated to be operational in 2019, the King Stallion is among the first digitally designed helicopters. Total cost of CH-53K is $131 million per helicopter.

The total acquisition cost of the U.S. Marine Corps’ new heavy lift helicopter has increased from $26.1 billion to $27.7 billion — a result of growing labor costs and the move of its production line, the service’s program manager said in an exclusive interview with Defense News.

The Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) approved the Navy’s request for the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter program to enter into the Production and Deployment April 4.

“We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed. This incredible positive step function in capability is going to revolutionize the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical throughput into that battlespace. I could not be prouder of our government-contractor team for making this happen,” said Col Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

Production is expected to begin in June 2017 at Sikorsky’s facility in Stratford, Conn. The recurring flyaway cost for the CH-53K is $87.1M. Recurring flyaway costs are the average cost for all production lots of aircraft, engines, contract/government furnished equipment, and engineering change orders.

With four aircraft in test, the CH-53K has logged over cumulative flight hours to date. Initial operational capability continues on pace for 2019 and is defined as having four aircraft, with combat-ready crews, logistically prepared to deploy.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides three times the heavy-lift capability of its predecessor, the CH-53E. With more than triple the payload capability and a 12 inch wider internal cabin, this increased payload capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or the European Fennek armored personnel carrier, and up to three independent external loads at once, which gives incredible mission flexibility and system efficiency..

Popular Mechanics gives some info:

Rotors: The helo’s 79-foot-diameter main rotor has a new elastomeric hub developed from one used on Sikorsky’s S-92. The rotor blades from the earlier CH-53E are replaced by fourth-generation composite blades with new, wider-chord airfoils. The King Stallion’s 20-foot tail rotor generates the same thrust as the main rotor on an S-76.

Transmission: A split-torque gearbox divides the power from each one of the aircraft’s three engines among four shafts that drive a gear, which turns the main rotor. Although the gearbox is lighter than those that came before, it can handle the combined 22,500 hp of the GE engines.

Fly-by-wire: The system builds on those designed for Sikorsky’s CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter and upgraded UH-60MU Black Hawk. Unlike its predecessor, the CH-53K is flown with side-stick cyclic controllers with tactile cueing. The controls improve on the CH-53E’s handing qualities, Sikorsky says, and provide better stability/control in degraded visual environments. The controls are complimented by a new glass cockpit with five liquid-crystal flight displays derived from Rockwell Collins’s Common Avionics Architecture System, used in the special-operations MH-60M.

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