Some next level aerial refueling

Gepubliceerd op 13 mei 2024 om 20:32

© US Navy

On 24 April 2024, a US Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53K King Stallion, carrying a stripped-down F-35C, refueled mid-air from a KC-130T Hercules tanker/transport aircraft, offering insight into the future of the service's distributed aviation operations.

The CH-53K, piloted by a member of Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 Mihi Cura Futuri ('MV-00x'), recently transported the F-35C CF-01 test jet, or what is left of it, from NAS Patuxent River (MD) to Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst (NJ). 

NAWCAD Lakehurst, located approximately 160 miles northeast within Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, will utilise the F-35C remnants for future emergency recovery systems testing.

The CH-53K King Stallion, a heavy lift helicopter and a redesign of the preceding CH-53E Super Stallion, boasts new engines, cockpit layout, and enhanced capabilities, including over twice the lift capacity and radius of action of its predecessor. It features a wider cargo hold capable of internally transporting a Humvee and incorporates a new composite rotor blade system similar to the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

The USMC still plans to procure 200 King Stallions, with the maiden deployment timeline shifting from 2025 to 2026. Previously, in September 2022, the heavy lift transport helicopter was deployed in a fleet exercise for the first time, executed by Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 Iron Horses ('CJ-xx'). The maiden operational deployment will be from the East Coast sometime in 2026 with a Marine expeditionary unit.

The Marine Corps reported that they remain on schedule to achieve Full Operational Capability with the CH-53K by FY2029 as it continues its transition from the CH-53E.

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