The CH-53K King Stallion is set to enter full-rate production in 2023, meaning more Marine units will soon get to train with the extremely powerful new helicopter.
The Marine Corps has received seven King Stallion helicopters, Megan Wasel, a spokeswoman for the executive program office that manages the acquisition of the aircraft, told Marine Corps Times mid-December.
Wasel added that the acquisition program “is progressing as expected.”
With the production rate cranking up in the new year, eight are set to join the service in 2023, Defense News reported in April. In 2024 and beyond, the Corps plans to gain 16 additional King Stallion helicopters a year.
The King Stallion is three times as powerful as its predecessor helicopter, the CH-53E Super Stallion. It can externally carry up to 27,000 pounds for 110 nautical miles.
As the Marine Corps shifts its focus more toward amphibious operations in the Pacific Ocean, this ability to move light armored vehicles across long stretches of sea could prove an asset.
The helicopter deployed in August to its first training exercise, in the mountains of southwestern Idaho.
“Routinely training with an LAV for an external load, to me, 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 press release in September about the exercise. “It’s got power for days; you can do anything you want.”
It took the helicopter a long time to be deemed operational. First ordered in 2008, the King Stallion originally was scheduled to be in the fleet by the end of 2019.
But mechanical issues delayed that timeline. Sikorsky, the Lockheed Martin subsidiary that makes King Stallion and its predecessor, eventually resolved those issues.
In September 2021, as its first official fleet mission, the King Stallion rescued a Navy helicopter stuck in the White Mountains of California.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.