Sikorsky, an American manufacturer of helicopter technology, and large German weapons Rheinmetall concern offer German military new heavy helicopter CH-53K King Stallion ("Royal Stallion"). The companies introduced a pool of manufacturers who will participate in the release and maintenance of the new helicopter. It is assumed that this particular machine will become the winner of the program to supply the Bundeswehr with a new heavy transport helicopter.
CH-53K King Stallion second only to Mi-26
The heavy transport helicopter CH-53K King Stallion, developed by Sikorsky engineers, is by far the heaviest helicopter available to the United States and NATO members. The helicopter is a further development of the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the first flight of which took place on October 15, 1964. In the future, the machine was repeatedly modernized and is still in service with the United States and other states.
Work directly on the CH-53K King Stallion model began back in 2006. The main customer of the new heavy transport helicopter equipped with three engines was the United States Marine Corps. In total, Sikorsky is ready to supply two hundred such helicopters to the US Marines, and the total amount of the possible deal is estimated at $ 25 billion. Ground tests of the first models of the new version of the helicopter started in 2014, and the first flight tests took place on October 27, 2015. That is, 51 years after the flight of the first Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter. In 2018, the first helicopter was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. By that time, CH-53K King Stallion helicopters flew a total of more than 1200 hours during test flights, reaching all of the set targets. In April 2018, the Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter also made its first flight in Germany.
Currently, the new CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopter is a modern aircraft with excellent cargo capacity. In the West, this helicopter simply has no analogues. At the same time, the novelty of American industry is inferior to the Russian Mi-26T helicopter. The payload of the American CH-53K King Stallion helicopter according to the manufacturer is limited to 36 thousand pounds (approximately 16,3 tons), while the Mi-26T has a maximum payload of 20 tons. At the same time, the domestic heavy transport helicopter is noticeably larger, its maximum take-off weight is 56 tons against 39,9 tons from an American colleague. So, the dominance of the Mi-26 helicopter, as the largest and hoisting helicopter in the world, is not yet in danger.
Sikorsky and Boeing fight for German contract
The Bundeswehr program for the purchase of heavy transport helicopters involves the conclusion of a contract for the purchase of 44 to 60 rotorcraft in 2021, followed by service support and training of technical personnel and pilots. At the same time, Sikorsky and Rheinmetall will compete with another aviation giant - Boeing Corporation. Boeing is promoting its equally well-known heavy transport helicopter H-47 Chinook in Germany, used in 20 countries around the world.
Especially for operation in the German Air Force, Sikorsky and Rheinmetall formed a large team, which included 10 well-known German industrial companies, including MTU Aero Engines, Hydro Systems KG, Autoflug GmbH, Rockwell Collins Germany, ZFL and others. All of them can become Sikorsky's technical partners and suppliers of equipment and various units for the CH-53K King Stallion helicopters to be used by the Bundeswehr. These same companies will help the German army in the maintenance, repair and operation of these helicopters. To facilitate these tasks, it is planned to create a special logistics center and a service center for supporting heavy transport helicopters in Germany, which can be located at the Leipzig / Halle airport. This international airport, located in the city of Skojdice, serves both German cities.
The decision to create in Germany a whole pool of companies that will supply their own equipment for the German version of the helicopter seems to be beneficial for the German aerospace industry. As Mark Schmidt, Managing Director of Rheinmetall Aviation Services GmbH, notes, for the industry this will mean the creation of new jobs for highly qualified specialists, as well as the transfer of modern technology. Moreover, the project is long-playing, since it is planned to operate the new helicopter for decades, and the scope of its application is not limited to solving military tasks. It is planned to pay special attention to the export deliveries of the machine.
Features of the new CH-53K King Stallion helicopter
The new heavy transport helicopter CH-53K King Stallion is a modern machine, which is based on a well-established helicopter with half a century history military service. At the same time, according to the president of Sikorsky, Dan Schulz, the new helicopter has every opportunity to survive in the sky for another 50 years, performing a variety of military and civilian tasks.
The main purpose of the CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopter is to transport troops and equipment, including from ship to shore; evacuation of the wounded and injured; search and rescue operations, including military operations; support for special operations forces; participation in humanitarian missions; extinguishing various fires. At the same time, the helicopter can be operated in various climatic zones from the Arctic to the desert, in all weather conditions and in any visibility.
It is worth noting that the new helicopter received a “glass” cockpit, completely updated avionics and digital control systems with the ability to easily update software in the future. The widespread introduction of modern technology has reduced the helicopter crew to two people. According to the manufacturer, the internal payload can also be increased in the future due to the relatively simple modifications of the helicopter. To the features and advantages of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter, developers also include an integrated sensor system, which allows you to monitor, predict and prevent various technical problems with equipment in real time at an early stage. In the future, this should significantly reduce the maintenance costs of heavy helicopters (both monetary and temporary). This, in turn, should have a positive effect on ensuring high flight readiness of the entire fleet of such machines.
A feature of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter is the power plant, represented by three General Electric T408 turbo engines with a capacity of 7500 hp. each. This power plant provides the helicopter with very high speed characteristics for machines of its class. The maximum speed of the helicopter is 315 km / h. This is a lot even in comparison with attack helicopters, cruising speed - about 290 km / h. For comparison, the maximum speed of the Mi-26T according to the manufacturer is 270 km / h. High speed allows the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter to quickly leave the danger zone for the crew and landing. The maximum possible flight altitude is 18 thousand feet (5486 meters).
The maximum carrying capacity of a helicopter with the placement of goods on an external sling is 16,3 tons. At the same time, King Stallion is able to transport 12 kg of various cargoes on an external sling over a distance of 200 km. The result was obtained in conditions of high air temperature - 204 degrees Celsius with a flight altitude of 33 meters. This is almost twice as good as the result of its predecessor - the CH-914E helicopter. At the same time, the possibilities for transporting goods inside the transport cabin have been expanded. The cabin has become wider by 53 cm or 30 percent, compared with its predecessor. This allows you to transport vehicles inside the helicopter, for example, multi-purpose wheeled armored vehicles HMMWV without transforming the cabin. Also in the cabin you can transport two pallets 15L (463x2 kg), or three tanks with fuel capacity of 4500 liters each, or 3030 infantrymen (without installing the central row of seats), or 32 wounded on a stretcher. The dimensions of the cargo compartment: length - 24 meters, width - 9,1 meters, height - 2,6 meters.
An additional feature of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopters is that they are equipped with a refueling system in the air. The helicopter is fully compatible with the standard Lockheed Martin KC-130J tanker, which the Bundeswehr also plans to operate in the future. A separate advantage is the design of the cargo compartment, which will allow using the same pallets as on the C130-J and A400M transport planes. Due to this, the helicopter can be used for shuttle transport of goods from the place of landing of these transport aircraft to their destination. This is very convenient, given that the CH-53K helicopter can also be used in places where it is simply not possible to land a heavy transport aircraft.