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The ‘Most Powerful’ Helicopter Ever Fielded By The US Is Also The Most Expensive
The CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is on track to enter arsenals around the world within the next few years — but it’ll cost militaries a pretty penny.
Marine Corps officials announced early this month that the CH-53K was on track to enter service sometime in 2019 as a replacement for the existing CH-53 Echo fleet. Weeks later, manufacturer Sikorsky debuted the CH-53K at a German air show in a move that, per Aviation Week, signals that the defense contractor is “preparing to fight for export orders.” Both are signs of the King Stallion’s imminent arrival downrange after more than a decade in development.
"[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded," CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght told the audience at the annual Sea-Air-Space expo on April 9, per Military.com. "Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest."
But boy, the King Stallion is expensive as hell. Back in April 2017, a leaked decision memo revealed that each CH-53K would cost around $138.5 million; a month later, that figure had ballooned to $144 million apiece. All of these figures are well above the multimillion-dollar price tag of the notoriously garbage F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter, which has seen its price decline in recent weeks.
The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter is revealed during the rollout ceremony at the Sikorsky headquarters in Jupiter, Florida, in May 2014.U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans
The King Stallion’s costs will likely only grow. After the CH-53K successfully pulled off its first cross-country flight last summer, Naval Air Systems Command announced its first official production contract for two helicopters for $303.97 million, or just under $152 million for each aircraft, “along with engineering and integrated logistics support, spares, and peculiar support equipment.”
Then again, the King Stallion might just be worth the eye-popping price tag. Sikorsky engineered the CH-53K to haul up to 27,000 pounds, three times the cargo of the Pentagon’s current heavy-lift workhorse, without any significant changes in the airframe dimensions. And that makes a difference downrange, as Task & Purpose’s Brian Jones wrote of the King Stallion in March:
When I was in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, the CH-53 was so critical to combat operations it was the only squadron the Marine Corps kept two iterations of. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) had a CH-53E Super Stallion squadron and a CH-53D Sea Stallion squadron. But both versions of the aircraft were decades old, but were incredibly busy across the theater of operations. Those platforms desperately need to be upgraded.
The new CH-53K King Stallion certainly seems to be an excellent iterative development of this combat-tested and combat-proven platform. The new helicopter can hoist an external payload of more than 27,000 pounds, more than triple what the CH-53E could do. While the old version, the CH-53E, was just barely too thin to hold a Humvee in its fuselage, the new helicopter can hold a Humvee.
It’s also worth noting that unlike other uber-expensive next-generation military projects, the King Stallion isn’t a complete garbage pile (see: the Littoral Combat Ship). Sure, the program has its set of very special technical problems — airspeed indication anomalies, reliability issues in the rotor gearbox, and tail boom and rotor structural problems, according to a 2017 DoD report — but the airframe has demonstrated mission reliability beyond expectations for this point in its development lifecycle.
“I am proud of what the team has negotiated to bring this remarkable and unrivaled helicopter one step closer to the fleet,” Vanderbrough said of the airframe in September. “Future Marines, not even born yet, will be flying this helicopter well into the future.” Here’s hoping he’s right.
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In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.
PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the U.S. drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.
With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Two immigrants, a pastor and an Army sergeant have been convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud as part of an illegal immigration scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
Rajesh Ramcharan, 45; Diann Ramcharan, 37; Sgt. Galima Murry, 31; and the Rev. Ken Harvell, 60, were found guilty Thursday after a nine-day jury trial, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado.
The conspiracy involved obtaining immigration benefits for Rajesh Ramcharan, Diann Ramcharan, and one of their minor children, the release said. A married couple in 2007 came to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago on visitor visas. They overstayed the visas and settled in Colorado.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it was sending to Ukraine the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane that the Iranian military shot down this month, an accident that sparked unrest at home and added to pressure on Tehran from abroad.
Iran's Tasnim news agency also reported the authorities were prepared for experts from France, Canada and the United States to examine information from the data and voice recorders of the Ukraine International Airlines plane that came down on Jan. 8.
The plane disaster, in which all 176 aboard were killed, has added to international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long running row with the United States over its nuclear program that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.