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Wed, Sep 15, 2021

CH-53K King Stallion Logs First Successful Fleet Mission

Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Capability Is Ready For More

The first official fleet mission for the Marine Corps’ new heavy lift capability took place in the White Mountains of California Sunday, September 5. A CH-53K King Stallion successfully recovered a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter during the two day operation. The testing is in the midst of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Ca.

“VMX-1 received a request for assistance from the Naval Safety Center about an MH-60S Knighthawk that suffered a hard landing near Mt. Hogue, Ca., at an elevation of 12,000’ Mean Sea Level in July,” said LtCol Luke Frank, CH-53K Detachment Officer in Charge for VMX-1. 

On July 16th, the MH-60S Knighthawk was supporting a search and rescue effort for a lost hiker and following a hard landing, was left sitting on a high altitude ridge near the California-Nevada state line. The four crew members involved were without injury and were rescued the next day.

Frank says that both the MH-60S unit and the Naval Safety Center had exhausted all other resources for recovery, including Army National Guard, Navy and Marine Corps fleet squadrons. “They all lacked the capability to lift the aircraft without an extensive disassembly,” he revealed.

“After two weeks of exhaustive planning and assembling a team of more than 25 Marines and sailors from VMX-1 and 1st Landing Support Battalion from Camp Pendleton, CA we deployed two CH-53Ks to Bishop, CA, and got to work,” he continued.

The MH-60S weighed approximately 15,200 lbs and the CH-53K is designed to lift nearly 27,000. The MH-60S was positioned in a tight ravine at nearly 12,000’ MSL and needed to be transported over 23 nautical miles to the Bishop, CA airport.

“This is exactly what the K is made to do,” he said. “Heavy lift is a unique and invaluable mission for the Marine Corps. This is sure to be the first of what will be many, many successful missions for this aircraft and for heavy lift squadrons,” Frank said.

FMI: https://www.navair.navy.mil

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