U.S. Navy Photo

Military’s Largest Helicopter Gets 1st Air-to-Air Refueling over Chesapeake Bay

A heavy-lift helicopter built for the U.S. Marines to haul troops and equipment from ship to shore has successfully completed an air-to-air refueling test over the Chesapeake Bay.

In a four-and-a-half hour process, the crew of the CH-53K King Stallion plugged the drogue, a funnel-shaped basket towed behind a Lockheed Martin aerial refueling tanker. The wake survey test assessed the performance of the aircraft when flying behind the tanker in strong, turbulent air.

The ability to refuel from a tanker in tough air conditions shows how the CH-53K can provide long-range support to the Marines on the “modern battlefield,” according to Sikorsky Aircraft, the company owned by Lockheed Martin that designed and built it. Sikorsky is best-known as the maker of the Army’s Black Hawk helicopter.

“The aircraft went to the tanker this week and it was very successful, proving it is a long-range vertical logistic workhorse,” said Col. Jack Perrin, H-53 heavy lift helicopters (PMA-261) program manager.

The CH-53K King Stallion will be the military’s biggest, heaviest helicopter. The Marines expect to receive 200 of them, at a cost of $25 billion.

Right now the helicopter is “moving toward completion of developmental test,” according to Sikorsky, which puts it on track for the first fleet to deploy in 2023-2024.

-Meg Walburn Viviano