Sikorsky Begins Test Operations On The CH-53K Helicopter


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Sikorsky Begins Test Operations On The CH-53K Helicopter

Steve Hall

October 22, 2010 - Sikorsky Aircraft is set to begin testing of the key systems to be installed on the CH-53K helicopter, the new heavy lift aircraft being built for the U.S. Marine Corps, as a new Systems Integration Lab (SIL) was formally turned on recently to begin operations.

The SIL is a 10,000-square-foot complex housed within the company?s main manufacturing facility in Stratford, Conn. The complex comprises five laboratories for testing avionics, electrical power, electronic flight controls, hydraulic flight controls, and engine control subsystems. Each subsystem will be evaluated independently before progressing to a fully integrated aircraft-representative test configuration.


?This is a world-class facility that provides a simulated flight environment allowing us to test these key subsystems individually and then integrated together to warrant out any issues prior to advancing to test flight,? said John Johnson, Program Manager for the CH-53K helicopter program. ?This will reduce the number of required flight test hours, resulting in significant time and cost savings to the customer.?

The integrated experience closely resembles the actual aircraft and will allow the pilot to fly simulated missions to evaluate qualitative performance such as pilot workload and warning annunciations, and have the actual ?look and feel? of the aircraft.

Mike Torok, Vice President and Chief Engineer for Sikorsky Marine Corps Systems, said: ?This new lab is the product of lessons learned from other major Sikorsky integrated lab programs. It enables new levels of integration testing across multiple aircraft systems to ensure functionality is proven before we ever get to the aircraft ? and that will yield a successful flight test program in the future.?

Sikorsky Aircraft received a $3 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract on April 5, 2006 to develop a replacement for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E heavy lift helicopter. The new aircraft program is planned to include production of more than 200 aircraft. Currently, the CH-53K helicopter is in the SDD phase with more than 99 percent of the major subcontracts awarded and valued at more than $1.1B.


The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION?, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under ?hot high? ambient conditions. The CH-53E helicopter is currently the largest, most powerful marinized helicopter in the world. It is deployed from Marine Corps amphibious assault ships to transport personnel and equipment and to carry external (sling) cargo loads.

The CH-53K helicopter?s maximum gross weight (MGW) with internal loads is 74,000 pounds compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E aircraft. The CH-53K?s MGW with external loads is 88,000 pounds as compared to 73,500 for the CH-53E helicopter.

Features of the CH-53K helicopter include: a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability. The program is expected to achieve the Initial Operational Capability milestone in FY18.


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