CH-53K achieves first flight

By Justin Doubleday / October 27, 2015 at 2:38 PM

The Marine Corps' CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter has achieved its first flight after months of delays, manufacturer Sikorsky announced Tuesday.

The CH-53K was originally slated to first fly late last year, but issues with the steel rod in the helicopter's main rotor gearbox delayed the milestone until this month. Program officials have said the problem with the gearbox has since been fixed.

The Marine Corps is building the new helicopter to replace its legacy heavy-lift rotorcraft, the CH-53E Super Stallion. The CH-53Es were flown extensively during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the hard use causing a readiness issue with the helicopters in recent years. The Marine Corps recently kicked off a large-scale maintenance program to reset its remaining CH-53Es.

The Marine Corps plans to procure a total of 200 CH-53K airframes, according to the service's aviation plan. The last active-component squadron will transition from the E model to the CH-53K in 2028.