US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), October 20, 2016 - NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion helicopter completed its two-week initial operational test period, called OT-B1, Oct. 19 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
OT-B1 included multiple external lift scenarios of 27,000 lb. (12,200 kg) in-hover and 12,000 lb. (5,422 kg) 110 nautical mile radius missions. Ground events included embarkation/debarkation of combat equipped troops, internal and external cargo rigging, tactical bulk fuel delivery system (TBFDS) operation, and medivac litter configuration.
“OT-B1 is a critical milestone for the program because this is the first time an operational test has been done utilizing an "All Marine" crew,” said Col. Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command's Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261. “All test objectives were met, and the aircraft performed very well. This further increases our confidence in the design, and is another key step to successfully fielding the CH-53K."
With four aircraft in test, the CH-53K has logged over 200 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. Milestone C review for entry into low-rate initial production is anticipated in second quarter of fiscal year 2017.
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.