Armor & Mobility

MAR-APR 2018

Military magazines in the United States and Canada, covering Armor and Mobility, focuses on tactical vehicles, C4ISR, Special Operations Forces, latest soldier equipment, shelters, and key DoD programs

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carry two of the pallets without having to break them down into smaller assets between airlifter and helicopter transfer, as previously required. The aircraft's cargo capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from an internally loaded HMMWV or the European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, it was designed to support three independent external loads at once, providing mission flexibility and system efficiency. The greater lift capability is facilitated by increased engine power (nearly 7,500 shaft horsepower versus 4,380 horsepower per engine in the CH-53E) and a composite airframe, previously metal. The engines provide enough power to complete an operation at max gross weight at density altitudes at more than 3,000 feet. Cockpit Upgrades In addition to payload enhancements, pilots have the benefit of a modern glass cockpit featuring digital panels and full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management. These features reduce the pilot's workload, enabling the entire crew to focus more on mission execution. Pilot features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing. "The human/machine interface and advanced control laws have the potential to make our more difficult tasks, such as dusty landings and low light level flying, easier and safer," said Maj. Hayden Tyler Stevens, a CH-53K project pilot for the test program. "The aircraft nearly flies itself." From a logistics perspective, the CH-53K was designed with the maintainer in mind. During the research and development phase, a working group of Marine maintainers and Sikorsky engineers discussed lessons learned from their experience with the CH-53E. This information was used to identify ways to reduce the maintenance man hours per flight hour. Improvements are seen throughout the aircraft including the tail rotor gearbox, Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring Systems and fuel pump system. A Day in Test, Decades of Heavy Lift After the initial ground turn, the massive helicopter takes-off and within moments, it is hovering above the helipad and JLTV. The Helicopter Support Team swiftly approaches, connecting the CH-53K's single hook to the rigged-up JLTV. After a signal from the safety officer and crew chief, the team carefully backs away a safe distance, avoiding the down wash of the aircraft. The 18,870-pound load as configured for this test, dangled above at up to 100 feet for at least 10 minutes. When the demonstration was over, the CH-53K carefully set the JLTV down and using its internal controls; the hook was released. "The biggest thing my unit noticed was the stability of it," said Cpl. Ronald Fritter of Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 25. "Safety is paramount while underneath the bird because you have so many variables with the down wash of the aircraft to the hook … with the hook not moving around at all, little to none, it makes our jobs easier." Although this is a historic test for the program, it is just one of countless events designed to test the extensive heavy lift capabilities of the CH-53K; it is a fast-paced test and acquisition program committed to achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) during 2019. Test highlights include a high-speed flight of 207 knots, sloped landings up to 12 degrees, starting dual point external loads and auto-jettisons and the first full auto blade/tail fold test. During 2017, the CH-53K program achieved approval to move forward with LRIP, a key acquisition milestone. From that decision, the program could negotiate and award the first production contract with Sikorsky. Valued at $304 million, the contract includes two aircraft and the engineering and integrated logistics support, spares, and peculiar support equipment (i.e., unique tools and support equipment specific to the CH-53K). Following close behind, NAVAIR awarded GE Aviation a $143 million LRIP contract to build 22 T408-GE-400 engines that will power the CH-53K. The T408 LRIP contract also includes logistics support, technical publications and organic support development. "Step-by-step, these key test and production activities bring this game-changing platform closer to fleet delivery," Vanderborght said. Partnering for Success In addition to delivering the aircraft to the Marines, the program office is continuously working with potential international partners to procure the CH-53K, with the goal of increasing the total aircraft procured above the 200 planned for the Marines. This increase in production could provide a significant cost decrease per unit, based on the number of aircraft sold internationally. International sales also provide the opportunity for cost savings through the operations and support (O&S) phase as investments needed for non-recurring engineering can be shared by all CH-53K users. For example, if hardware or software modifications are required, the U.S. will be able to share this cost with its international customers as all parties will benefit from 21st-century upgrades. Finally, international sales strengthen alliances with foreign allies and foster conditions for economic growth between countries sharing the same vision. NAVAIR and Sikorsky hosted the first orientation flight in the CH-53K for Brig. Gen. Nir Nin-Nun of the Israeli Air Force, during November 2017. Nin-Nun is the commander of the Air Support and Helicopter Division. The program is currently supporting Israel through their sustainment of the CH-53D Sea Stallion. A CH-53K King Stallion lifts a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during a demonstration. Using the single point hook, the helicopter hovered up to 100 feet for approximately 10 minutes while carrying the 18,870-pound vehicle (JLTV). (U.S. Navy photo by Emanuel Cavallaro) CH-53K NEXT-GEN VERTICAL HEAVY LIFT March/April 2018 | Armor & Mobility | 23

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