Tel Aviv: The US Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 reached the 1,000 operational-flight hour milestone in the CH-53K King Stallion at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2023. The Israeli Air Force is closely following the milestone in the CH-53K as this is its future heavy lift helicopters.
The CH-53K is the US Marine Corps’ newest heavy-lift helicopter that is replacing the CH-53E Super Stallion. HMH-461 transitioned from a CH-53E squadron to a CH-53K squadron in January 2022.
“Aside from a common-size footprint and some visual similarities, the CH-53K is a significantly different airframe than the CH-53E,” said US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Thomas Nicholson, commanding officer of HMH-461. “The first 1,000 flight hours have reinforced this fact for fleet pilots and aircrew as we have learned that aircraft systems, such as its full-authority, digital fly-by-wire flight control system, performs tasks more effectively than the human operator.”
HMH-461 reached the milestone of 1,000 operational-flight hours in the CH-53K while participating in an event for Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI), a biannual training event that takes place in Yuma, Arizona.
“The 1,000 fleet-flight hour milestone represents the aforementioned lessons learned and herculean effort by the Marines and Sailors of HMH-461,” said Nicholson. “Perhaps more importantly, the milestone’s proximity to the squadron’s completion of Stage I CH-53K transition requirements, which represent crews capable of performing all Marine heavy-helicopter squadron mission-essential tasks, demonstrates that the CH-53K King Stallion is not a future capability; rather, it is a very real warfighting capability available today.”
Additionally, the CH-53K reached another milestone in military-aviation history. According to Nicholson, HMH-461 conducted an external lift weighing 36,000 pounds during an event at WTI on March 28, 2023, which set the record for the heaviest lift by a US military helicopter outside of developmental testing.
However, with all new things comes new challenges.
“Learning how to best respond to the instant availability of aircraft data provided by the CH-53K’s Integrated Vehicle Health Management System represented a significant paradigm shift from the legacy CH-53E,” said Nicholson. “Additionally, maintenance personnel have devoted considerable effort toward the correction of publication gaps and tool improvements. Again, such gaps are common for new airframes, but they still present daily challenges at the tactical level.”
The squadron is determined to keep training and improving their proficiency with the CH-53K for the future.
“Our immediate task is to conduct effective CH-53K series-conversion training of pilots, aircrew, and maintainers as rapidly as possible in preparation for the first CH-53K Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment and to provide trained personnel to seed subsequent squadron transitions,” said Nicholson.
The Israeli government has approved the purchase of 12 CH-53K. These will be equipped with a great number of Israeli developed systems including one that will protect it from shoulder launched missiles. The systems will make the heavy helicopter best suited for the operations of the Israeli defence forces (IDF) Depth Command.
The CH-53K helicopters will replace the Israeli Air Force (IAF) fleet of modified CH-53D Yasur helicopters, which have been in Israel’s inventory for over 50 years.