U.S. Marine Corps declares Initial Operational Capability for CH-53K helicopters

The U.S. Marine Corps has declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter designed and built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.

The CH-53K enables the U.S. Marine Corps and international militaries to move troops and equipment from ship to shore, and to higher altitude terrain quickly and effectively.

By declaring the IOC, the U.S. Marine Corps are validating the platform’s operational readiness to forward deploy Marines and equipment across the globe.

“This declaration is a vote of confidence from Marine Corps leadership and demonstrates the critical role of the CH-53K, giving forces more range and agility to conduct expeditionary heavy-lift assault transport of armoured vehicles, equipment, and personnel. This capability is critical in the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe in support of the joint force and allies”, said Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo.

The path to CH-53K IOC included collaboration on Initial Operational Testing & Evaluation among Sikorsky, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps to develop, test and validate the advanced capabilities of this aircraft.

The aircraft has flown more than 3,000 flight hours showcasing the CH-53K’s performance in a range of mission scenarios including extreme cold and hot environments, Sikorsky informed. Other accomplishments included:

  • Day and night air-to-air refuelling,
  • Air-to-air refueling with 27,000 lb. external load,
  • Sea trials with over 350 landings,
  • Live fire testing and evaluation,
  • Sustained operations simulating offload of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade,
  • Testing in degraded visual environment conditions at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, and
  • Delivery of first six aircrafts to the Marine Corps.

The IOC declaration is said to position the Marine Corps for a full-rate production decision in 2023.

At the beginning of the year, Sikorsky was contracted to build nine additional CH-53K helicopters for the Marine Corps which are part of the 200 aircraft Program of Record with deliveries beginning in 2025.

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Photo: CH-53K. Source: Lockheed Martin