The Corps took delivery of its first CH-53 King Stallion heavy lift helicopter at the New River air station in North Carolina on Wednesday.
The CH-53K is one of the most powerful helicopters across the Defense Department and is capable of lifting nearly three times the weight of its predecessor, the CH-53E.
But the King Stallion isn’t slated to be operational until sometime in 2019. The helicopter delivered by Sikorsky has further testing to undergo with the Corps.
“The helicopter’s arrival to New River enters it into the Supportability Test Plan where U.S. Marines will conduct a logistical assessment on the maintenance, sustainment and overall aviation logistics support of the King Stallion,” the Corps said in a command release Wednesday.
The CH-53K has hit several other milestones over the last several months. In April, the heavy lift helicopter had its first international debut at ILA Berlin air show. And in January, the beastly helicopter lifted a 19,000 pound Joint Light Tactical Vehicle 100 feet for about 10 minutes.
The CH-53K also has demonstrated an ability to lift nearly 36,000 pounds.
Sikorsky, the manufacturer of the CH-53K, said there was an additional 18 aircraft already in production and that the company expected to deliver the Corps’ second CH-53K in early 2019.
“I am very proud of the work accomplished to deliver the most powerful helicopter ever designed into the hands of our Marines,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, said in a command release.
The Corps plans to field a total of 200 CH-53Ks over the coming years. The first eight of that “program of record” currently is under contract.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.