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CH-53X Super Stallion

The Super Stallion continues to undergo improvements that increase operational readiness and safety. Modifications, such as a night vision system, heads up display, global positioning system, UHF/VHF jam-resistant radios, crashworthy seats, and number two engine fire detectors, enhance the aircraft's survivability and capability. During 1998, the Fleet received three new production CH-53Es. In June 1998, engineers successfully completed a critical design review for an H-53 and H-60 Integrated Mechanical Diagnostics (IMD) Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) that will integrate, test, and procure a commercial/military "dual use" mechanical diagnostic system.

The Marine Corps announced in late 2000 a plan to remanufacture the CH-53E heavy lift helicopters. A contract award was expected in FY04, with full-rate production commencing in FY11. The upgrades to the helicopters would extend their operational life to 2025. The CH-53X program would upgrade 111 of the Corps' 165 CH-53Es to "like new" condition at a cost of about $21 million apiece, about one-fifth the cost of a new replacement helicopter. The CH-53X would reduce operational costs by 25%, or roughly $30 million per year. The new engines will be Rolls-Royce AE1107C. Upgrades include an all-composite rotor blade based on the Sikorsky S-92 blade, an elastomeric rotor head also modeled after the S-92, an improved cargo hook system, and a common glass cockpit identical to either the MV-22 or the UH-1Y cockpit. Load capability would be increased to 12,700 kg. The CH-53X would have a payload three times that of the CH-53E over a 200 nautical mile radius.

This acquisition is intended to satisfy the United States Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53X Heavy-Lift Helicopter (CH-53X) Operational Requirements Document (ORD), number AAS 34.6. The Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council (MROC) concurred with the CH-53X ORD, per MROC Decision Memorandum 05-2004 dated 17 November 2003. This ORD was submitted on 10 December 2003 for Joint Requirements Oversight Council review and approval, under Knowledge Management / Decision Support System control number 03-50090314-00. The Analysis of Alternatives was completed on 11 September 2003, and recommended a new-build approach for update of the CH-53E to the CH-53X configuration.

In March 2004 the Marine Corps decided to replace its heavy-lift helicopter fleet with a substantially redesigned version of the CH-53 Super Stallion. The Corps decided to buy 154 new CH-53s from Sikorsky to replace ones that have flown more missions than the 1960s design called for. The new CH-53(X) would look like the current E version but otherwise will be a new aircraft. This reverses the Corps' 2000 plan for a service life extension program that would have kept the original airframes while replacing the engines, rotor blades and cockpit.

The CH-53X, an upgraded variant of the CH-53E, will provide improvements in range and payload performance, cargo handling and turn-around times, reliability and maintainability, interoperability, and survivability. The CH-53X program is required to provide full system capability, including shipboard compatibilities, at Initial Operational Capability (IOC), in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The CH-53X will replace the CH-53E, with Full Operational Capability (FOC) achieved by FY 2021.

The CH-53X Heavy Lift Helicopter program is a pre-Major Defense Acquisition Program (program number 390). The CH-53X program will be initiated as an Acquisition Category (ACAT) I program, based on total estimated costs for both Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), and Aircraft Procurement, Navy (APN). Entry into the acquisition process at Milestone (MS) B is planned for the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2005. Approval of MS B will mark initiation of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the CH-53X program. The CH-53X program will use a single-step acquisition approach to meet an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of FY 2015.

FY04-FY05 RDT&E efforts focused on trade studies for the CH-53X. FY05-FY07 RDT&E efforts focus on CH-53X System Development and Demonstration (SDD) activities that accomplish a successful FY06 Preliminary Design Review and promote a successful FY08 Critical Design Review. Schedule has matured as CH-53X Engineering Trade Studies have been completed and requirements have been defined. While MS B remains scheduled for 4QFY05, MS C has moved to FY12 from FY08, with corresponding adjustments to key events between MS B and MS C.

The Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, formerly known as the CH-53X program, is the solution to maintain the Super Stallion as the premier heavy-lift aircraft beyond the year 2025.

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