Concepts & Programs HomeProgramsFocus Area 4: Modernization & TechnologyPart 5: AviationCH-53K

The CH-53K King Stallion flies a test flight in West Palm Beach, Fla. on March 22, 2017. Lockheed Martin announced the CH-53K King Stallion passed its Defense Acquisition Board assessment that approved for the aircraft to begin low-rate initial production on April 4, 2017. The CH-53K will be considered the most powerful helicopter in the Department of Defense and is scheduled to completely replace the CH-53E Super Stallion by 2030.


The CH-53K helicopter is a new-build design variant and replacement for the current USMC heavy-lift aircraft, the CH-53E. The CH-53K evolves the CH-53E design to improve operational capability, reliability, maintainability, survivability, and cost of ownership. The CH-53K is the only fully marinized, heavy-lift rotorcraft capable of supporting current and future warfighting concepts by lifting 100% of the equipment in the Marine Corps’ “middleweight force,” the vertical MAGTF. It is designed to transport external cargo under high/hot conditions, nearly tripling the current CH-53E capability, vastly improving ship-to-objective maneuver distances, and allowing transport of dual up-armored HMMWVs, the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) Gen II, or dual Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV).

Other improvements include: modern glass cockpit, fly-by-wire flight controls, efficient 4th generation main rotor blades, and an engine which produces 57% more horsepower with 63% fewer parts than its predecessor. The increased capabilities that the CH-53K brings to the MAGTF coupled with its increased reliability and ease of maintenance will set a new standard for vertical heavy lift.

Operational Impact

In addition to having over three times the lift capability of the CH-53E under the same conditions, the CH- 53K will also have an intermodal cargo system that will allow it to transfer 463L pallets directly from fixed-wing transport aircraft (without the need for reconfiguration) and lock them in place with an internal pallet locking system, significantly enhancing the speed with which internal cargo operations will take place. Additionally, the aircraft will have a triple hook external cargo system that will allow for the transfer of three independent external loads to three separate landing zones in support of distributed operations in one single sortie without having to return to a ship or other logistical hub. The triple hook system will also minimize the time spent in congested airspace around logistical hubs, thereby increasing efficiency and throughput. The combination of these internal and external cargo capabilities will increase the speed of logistical throughput for the MAGTF.

Program Status

The CH-53K program is currently conducting Developmental Test and completed Milestone C in April 2017, approving Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). The CH-53K will achieve initial operational capability in December 2019, first operational deployment in 2024, and full operational capability in 2029, recapitalizing the Marine Corps’ vertical heavy-lift requirement employed from both expeditionary land base sites and the amphibious sea base.

Procurement Profile:

FY18 - 4
FY19 - 7


Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company,
Stratford, CT