After years of development from the CH-53 series of helicopters, the formidable Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion now meets its larger and heavier younger brother, the CH-53K King Stallion.

The King has arrived, and the King will rise to the skies. The King Stallion helicopter built by Sikorsky is known as the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever had in its fleet, which has three times the lift capability of the CH-53E Super Stallion.

Yes, the CH-53 series has served the United States military branches valiantly throughout the years. Still, as technology advances and more challenges arise, the King Stallion comes with an answer with its wider cabin and a capacity of over 27,000 pounds (30,000 at maximum capacity) versus its predecessor, which can only carry 9,628 pounds. Yup, they look the same, but the King Stallion hauls much heavier cargo, making it the Pentagon’s go-to helicopter.

The US Marine Corps (USMC) will definitely have loads of fun playing with their new set of toys, more importantly, serving the vital needs of the Marines during missions. With that, the USMC has designated its first operational unit for the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion. The Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, also known as the “Ironhorse” squadron, stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, North Carolina, has been redesignated as the first unit to officially field the CH-53K unit, saying goodbye to its old but equally formidable set of CH-53E Super Stallions. It falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).

Brig. Gen. Glenn M. Walters stands with the eight awardees from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 461 during an awards ceremony, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, March 23 (DVIDS). Source:
Brig. Gen. Glenn M. Walters stands with the eight awardees from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 461 during an awards ceremony at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, March 23 (DVIDS)

They won’t be alone in the transition, though, a transition that will be completed in 2030. They are one of eight aviation units to add the new aircraft with two reserve squadrons and two developmental test squadrons. The rest of the 2nd Marine Air Wing will follow in the transition. It has been reported that the 1st, 3rd, and 4th MAWs are also transitioning to the use of the King Stallion.

“While sad to see the beginning of the phase-out of the venerable Super Stallion, Sikorsky is thrilled the Marine Corps is introducing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter into the fleet and is moving one step closer to initial operational capability (IOC) and first deployment,” said Sikorsky’s CH-25K Program Director Bill Falk to the Marine Corps Times.

The launching of the new aircraft has been well-awaited and well-deserved by the Marine Corps, which has been in development since 2006. It was reportedly one of the Pentagon’s most expensive projects, costing the American taxpayers over $31 billion in initial costs.