CH-53K helicopter achieves successful critical design review

The composites-intensive CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter has passed critical design review, signaling that the program is ready to proceed to assembly, test and evaluation.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (Stratford, Conn., USA) on Aug. 3 announced the successful completion of the CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Critical Design Review (CDR) event, signaling the program is ready to proceed to assembly, test and evaluation.

The joint Sikorsky/Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) CH-53K helicopter program team hosted a weeklong meeting in late July to gather stakeholders and key collaborators from government and industry for an in-depth aircraft design review. At the review, the CH-53K team successfully demonstrated that the design meets the system requirements, setting the stage for the next phase of the program. 

More than 93 percent of the design has been released for manufacturing. System-level performance projections indicate all seven Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) will be achieved with adequate risk mitigation margin built-in for subsequent phases of the program. The team is ready to move into fabrication and assembly of test articles, component qualification, and flight test.

“This successful CDR confirms the program is on the right track and is a significant step forward for the CH-53K helicopter program,” said John Johnson, Sikorsky program manager for the CH-53K helicopter program. “Sikorsky and NAVAIR are well aligned in this collaborative effort, and this CDR brings us closer to delivering a vital tool to the U.S. Marine Corps’ future heavy lift mission.”

“This milestone is a turning point for our program,” said Mike Torok, Sikorsky vice-president and chief engineer for Marine Corps Programs, and chief engineer for the CH-53K. “The final design definition, which meets NAVAIR and USMC requirements, is concluding, and now we move on to the test and verification part of the program.

“Parts are being made throughout the supply base and at our new Precision Component Technology Center; test facilities are being fabricated and prepped for installation in our recently opened ground test facility; the integrated simulation facility is marching toward a late 2010 opening, already having received the first increment of software for the aircraft; and the final assembly facility in West Palm Beach is being prepared to start building the ground and flight vehicles early next year. It’s time now to prove out our design and show that this helicopter system will indeed meet the war fighting requirements of the USMC and give them exceptional mission performance from a platform that is affordable and supportable for many years to come,” Torok added.

The CH-53K helicopter will maintain virtually the same footprint as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E SUPER STALLION helicopter, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 lb/12,274 kg 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 program is expected to achieve the Initial Operational Capability milestone in FY18.