The Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, stationed in New River, North Carolina, has taken possession of the new CH-53K King Stallion, the most powerful heavy-lift helicopter in the United States military.
“Today our Marine Corps got a little stronger. It is only appropriate that 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and in particular Marine Corps Air Station New River, would be the first to receive the newest land and sea-based heavy helicopter because this is the home of the Marine Corps’ assault support,” Maj. Gen Michael Cederholm, commanding general of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing explained in a Marine Corps statement covering the event.
“Placing the CH-53K King Stallion into the hands of our warfighters will ensure we capitalize on the unique qualities and characteristics of the 53K, and will allow 2nd MAW to continue to provide the best aviation support to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force right now, and well into our future.”
Bigger and Better than the Rest
The CH-53K King Stallion is a significant improvement over its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion. In addition to being the U.S. military’s largest and heaviest helicopter, the King Stallion has 30 percent greater range than its predecessor, as well as updated cockpit displays, fly-by-wire controls, and improved rotor blades.
“Quite simply, 2nd MAW will be able to move more troops and equipment, at higher altitudes, faster speeds, and in more austere environments than ever before,” Cederholm said.
“We continue to become a more modernized and lethal force so, when the time comes, we will deliver on II Marine Expeditionary Force’s motto: ‘Come to Fight - Come to Win.’ I am so proud of the Marines and Sailors of 2nd MAW, and find it appropriate that they are a part of this moment in Marine Corps aviation history.”
Still, the King Stallion’s production has been less than perfect. In 2018, several technical problems were discovered that delayed the helicopter’s rollout. Tail rotor deficiencies, as well as exhaust gas ingestion and air filter issues, required a redesign.
Development hiccups aside, the King Stallion has enjoyed some success on the export market. Late last year, Israel signed a procurement contract for twelve CH-53K King Stallions for $2 billion, with the option to purchase an additional six helicopters. Japan is currently investing more in its military and has also shown interest in purchasing the helicopter.
The King Stallion offers the United States Marine Corps significant payload capacity increases for the same range. Despite some design hiccups early on, it will be the Corps’ go-to heavy lift helicopter.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.