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The Marine Corps’ enormous King Stallion chopper is ready for battle




Not only is the King Stallion the United States Marine Corps’ largest helicopter, but it is also the largest, most powerful helicopter under the auspices of the Department of Defense.

The CH-53K King Stallion lifts three times more than its predecessor and will help Marines get men and equipment from ship to shore and throughout littoral areas.

According to a recent U.S. Marine Corps press release, the CH-53K King Stallion, the Marine Corps’ newest aviation platform, has achieved initial operational capability.

“My full confidence in the CH-53K’s ability to execute the heavy lift mission is the result of successful developmental and operational testing conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 and Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1,” said LTG. Mark Wise, deputy commandant for aviation.

Initial operational capability is a state in which a platform is available to be deployed and maintained but has not been fully distributed to all units.

Sikorsky, the aerospace firm behind the King Stallion design, tweeted, “the @USMC declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, validating the platform’s operational readiness to forward deploy Marines and equipment across the globe.”

The King Stallion

Not only is the King Stallion the Marine Corps’ largest helicopter, but it is also the largest, most powerful helicopter under the auspices of the Department of Defense. The King Stallion fits within the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 update by complimenting ship-to-shore connectors already in service and helping the Corps maneuver in littoral areas.

In their press release, the Marine Corps explained that the King Stallion’s three engines produce “57% more horsepower with 63% fewer parts relative to its predecessor,” and can lift three times more than the CH-53E, the King Stallion’s predecessor.

The King Stallion can maintain its high performance even in what the Marine Corps calls a “degraded aeronautical environment.” For example, the CH-53K can operate “at higher altitudes, hotter climates and carrying up to 27,000 lbs. out to 110 nautical miles; whereas, the CH-53E would be limited to a 9,628-pound external load in the same environment.”

Major Improvements

The King Stallion’s journey hasn’t been entirely bump-free. During development, the Marine Corps found over 100 technical issues to address. One of the most significant of these was gas exhaust reingestion, which significantly degraded the helicopter’s power.

With the helicopter’s engine problems now resolved, the Marine Corps’ heavy-lift helicopter is ready to move forward.

“The success to date of the CH-53K is a reflection of the hard work and effort by the Marines, sailors, and civilians at VMX-1, H-53 Program Office (PMA-261), and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, and the support we have received over many years from across the Department of the Navy and our industry partners,” said Lieutenant General Wise.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and Technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio.