Crazy expensive heavy superlift version of 1970s helicopter design

The latest upgrade of a 1970s CH-53 helicopter design is called the CH-53K King Stallion.

That’s enough lift to carry two armored Humvees or a LAV-25 light armored vehicle.

The aircraft, designated the CH-53K, will be capable of lifting 27,000 pounds (12,246 kilograms.) It will be the same size as its predecessor, the Super Stallion, but able to haul triple the cargo.

It can carry Humvees, two 20,000 pound pallets, or infantry internally. The helicopter has new gearbox technologies that took more than 10 years to develop, introducing delays and adding to the cost significantly. King Stallion also features fly-by-wire controls, an all-glass cockpit, powerful new engines, and advanced 4th-generation composite rotors.

It is very expensive, at $31 billion for 200 helicopters. Between March 2016 and April 2017, the total acquisition cost of the helicopters rose 6.9 percent. Each CH-53K will now cost $138.5 million, up from $131.2 million one year ago.

The original CH-53E helicopter cost $14.7 million each in 1977. Adjusted for inflation, those same helicopters would cost $61 million in 2017. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the CH-53K has more than doubled in 14 years, from $56 million in 2003 (adjusted for inflation) each to $138.5 million.

General characteristics of CH53K

    Crew: 5: 2 pilots, 1 crew chief/right gunner, 1 left gunner, 1 tail gunner (combat crew)
    Capacity: 37 troops (55 with centerline seats installed)
    Payload: * 35,000 lb (15,900 kg)
    Length: 99 ft 1/2 in (30.2 m)
    Rotor diameter: 79 ft (24 m)
    Height: 27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)
    Disc area: 4,900 ft² (460 m²)
    Empty weight: 33,226 lb (15,071 kg)
    Loaded weight: 74,000 lb (33,600 kg)
    Max. takeoff weight: * 84,700 lb (38,400 kg)
    Rotor systems: 7 blades on main rotor (each 35' × 35"), 4 blades on tail rotor
    Powerplant: 3 × *General Electric GE38-1B turboshaft, * 7,500 shp (5,600 kW) each

Performance

    Cruise speed: * 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h)
    Range: * 460 nmi (852 km) no reserves
    Combat radius: * 110 nmi (126 mi, 204 km)
    Service ceiling: * 14,400 ft (4,380 m)
    Rate of climb: 2,500 ft/min (13 m/s)

Armament

    Guns:
        2 window-mounted .50 BMG (12.7 mm) M3M/GAU-21 machine guns
        1 ramp-mounted .50 BMG (12.7 mm) M3M/GAU-21 machine gun
    Other: Chaff and flare dispensers

About The Author