US CH-53K King Stallion throws a punch – receives mid-air refueling while carrying F-35C stealth fighter

US CH-53K King Stallion throws a punch – receives mid-air refueling while carrying F-35C stealth fighter




The US Marine Corps (USMC) has released stunning images of a CH-53K King Stallion, the US military’s most powerful helicopter, being refueled mid-air while transporting a disassembled F-35C aircraft.

This extraordinary operation, captured in both images and video, demonstrated the payload capabilities of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter.

“Marines from Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) piloted the Department of Defense’s most powerful helicopter with an inoperable airframe,” the U.S. Marine Corps said.

The operation was conducted to transport the dismantled aircraft to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD)’s Prototyping, Manufacturing, and Testing (PMT) Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

The F-35C airframe, designated CF-1, lacked its mission and propulsion system, outer wings, and additional equipment. The trip from the Patuxent River to Lakehurst at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was a major step in testing the emergency recovery system.

U.S. Marines operating CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters will deploy F-35C Lightning II aircraft from the F-35 Integrated Test Force (PAX ITF) in Patuxent River to a Navy unit at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. was transported. New Jersey, April 24th.

This was not the first example of a CH-53K King Stallion carrying such a payload. A similar operation was conducted by the Maritime Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) in January 2023, when a heavy lift helicopter successfully hoisted a U.S. Navy F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

At the time, the Navy said the primary purpose of the operation was to assess payload and inform the CH-53K’s future lift capabilities.

But what makes this latest operation different is that it involves aerial refueling, a complex and potentially dangerous operation. Combining both tasks highlights the versatility and adaptability of his CH-53K King Stallion in handling multifaceted missions.

The successful execution of the operation provided both the Marine Corps and Navy with valuable insight into the King Stallion’s ability to transport oversized payloads over long distances.

These capabilities are particularly important in the changing landscape of expeditionary and distributed operations strategies, especially given the rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region involving China.

CH-53K King Stallion: Essential to Marine Corps missions in the Indo-Pacific

The Marine Corps has long relied on CH-53 helicopters to transport damaged or inoperable equipment and other large payloads. This capability has been further enhanced with the introduction of the CH-53K King Stallion variant.

The first CH-53K was delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps in May 2018, but development faced significant delays.

The Corps declared initial operational capability for this type in 2022. Plans for the first operational deployment of these helicopters on amphibious assault ships have been postponed to 2026.

Despite these setbacks, the U.S. Marine Corps remains committed to acquiring a total of 200 CH-53Ks, according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Manufacturer Sikorsky says it can produce up to two aircraft a month at peak times to meet service requirements to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion.

The helicopter’s advanced capabilities are critical to the service’s future distributed air operations. Upgraded engines, each producing 7,500 pounds of shaft horsepower, and rotor blades made of reinforced composite materials ensure optimal performance even in high temperature and high altitude conditions.

<em>american navy</em>” width=”1440″ height=”960″/><figcaption class=U.S. Marines operating CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters will deploy F-35C Lightning II aircraft from the F-35 Integrated Test Force (PAX ITF) in Patuxent River to a Navy unit at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. was transported. New Jersey, April 24th.

Boasting a maximum payload capacity of 36,000 pounds and powered by three powerful GE T408 engines, the CH-53K can carry nearly twice the external payload over a 110-mile radius compared to its predecessor, the CH-53E. Better than Super Stallion.

This high lifting power makes the King Stallion essential for transporting critical equipment and personnel during critical missions, especially in harsh and harsh environments.

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This latest development comes at a critical juncture for the Marine Corps, which has been reevaluating its force structure and strategic focus to counter modern threats.

The helicopter will support the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 effort envisioned by former Marine Corps Commander David H. Berger. The strategy involves modernized island-hopping operations in which scattered groups of Marines move from island to island.

The importance of the CH-53K to the Marine Corps’ strategic focus in island hopping operations, especially in the Pacific theater against adversaries like China, cannot be overstated.

This is consistent with the concept of stand-in forces, which are highly mobile and lethal forces operating within an enemy’s “arms war zone.” This strategy is aimed at countering the Chinese threat, particularly in the Western Pacific region.

In combating China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubble, the delivery and induction of additional heavy-lift CH-53K King Stallions will address logistical challenges and fill critical operational gaps. It is expected that it will be filled.

Helicopter capabilities will undoubtedly enhance the Marine Corps’ ability to effectively carry out missions in diverse and challenging environments.



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