The US Marine Corps deployed its CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter in a fleet exercise for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
The exercise was led by the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH-461), the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s II Marine Expeditionary Force aviation combat unit.
During the exercise, pilots operated the King Stallion in an environment quite different from the HMH-461’s home state of North Carolina.
“We have a lot of environmental flying that we don’t get to do in New River, [North Carolina],” HMH-461 Airframes Division Chief Staff Sgt. James Ganieany said.
“Canyons, mountains, desert, it’s a complete 180 of what we’re used to flying in.”
‘More Powerful’ Helicopter
The CH-53K serves as the force’s new heavy-lift solution. The helicopter has a payload capacity of 36,000-pound (16,000 kilograms).
“We practice our external [lifts] with a Light Armored Vehicle, and we never have power issues. HMH-461 had its first operational flight for the CH-53K in April 2022, and have been training with it ever since,” Ganieany explained.
The information gathered from the CH-53K’s maiden exercise will assist its future production, employment, and training tasks to support the command’s modernization efforts.
“The CH-53K is more powerful, safer and an easier-to-maintain helicopter. That’ll allow each wing commander more capacity to sustain the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in an austere environment,” HMH-461 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Adam Horne said.