USMC’s CH-53K undertakes first fleet training exercise in Idaho

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The US Marine Corps (USMC) has deployed its CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter to take part in a fleet exercise for the first time.

This maiden deployment exercise was executed by Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH)-461.

This squadron is a subordinate unit of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is the aviation combat unit of II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

The training was conducted at Mountain Home Air Force Base (AFB) in Idaho, US.

According to USMC, this base was selected for carrying out the associated exercises because it offered a different set of climatic conditions and a new terrain for the rotorcraft, in comparison to its home state in North Carolina.

HMH-461 airframes division chief staff sergeant James Ganieany said: “We have a lot of environmental flying that we do not get to do in North Carolina.

“Canyons, mountains, desert, it’s a complete 180 of what we are used to flying in.”

“HMH-461 had its first operational flight for CH-53K in April 2022 and have been training with it ever since.”

As part of this training, the helicopter proved its capabilities as the naval force’s new heavy-lift solution.

The exercise simultaneously validated King Stallion’s ability to fly at higher altitudes, in hotter environments, and for longer distances.

The key lessons drawn from this exercise will also allow HMH-461 to assist CH-53K’s future production and employment related tasks, further contributing for the USMC’s modernisation efforts.

Built by Lockheed Martin’s company Sikorsky, the new CH-53K helicopter offers three times the lift capability of its predecessor Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion.

HMH-461 commanding officer lieutenant colonel Adam Horne said: “The CH-53K is more powerful, safer and an easier-to-maintain helicopter.”

Recently, Sikorsky delivered the seventh CH-53K helicopter to the USMC.

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