CH-53K: Heavy Lift to the Rescue, But When?

The Marine Corps aviation workhorse has been the CH-53E Sea Stallion. It looks like a rounded trailer with rotors. Current operations have taxed the Corps’ 53s to the point where it has been reported the Marines have had to pull mothballed birds from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base bone yard, Tucson, Ariz.  The Corps is said to be left with zero spares and needs new birds by 2015.

Initial reports said the Corps was on track with procuring the CH-53K , but it seems things have changed. It has been reported the Corps has pushed the initial delivery date from 2011 to 2013. The initial operating capability has been pushed back three years to 2018.  Contractors have built aircraft quickly in the past, but the Corps has suffered a number of contracting setbacks. The design for the new presidential helo went so far over budget the program was stopped and the process started over. The V-22 Osprey, the Corps’ aviation crown jewel was decades (and many deaths) in the making. On the ground, the Corps has been losing its fight for expeditionary fighting vehicle. The Gun Club has had a strat comm. meltdown in justifying these waterborne metal coffins. Their version of a floating MRAP.

Conspiracy theorists at’s Defense Tech have reported a suspicious slowdown with the supposedly much-needed CH-53K may have more to do with the V-22 Osprey, alluding to turf battles. Does the Corps need both birds? Did the Marine Corps ever need the tilt-rotor V-22? As a replacement for the ancient CH-46, yes.  The Osprey has brought important technological advances through the aviation industry, but the Gun Club is not in the tech business. Defense Tech maintains the current CH-53E is a different (uh, yeah) and in some ways a better bird than the Osprey. The CH-53K will be even better.

There is room for both birds in the Corp’s bag o’ tricks. The move in recent years to have all services flying one type of bird seems foolish. The Osprey and the CH-53Ks in concert with the Corps other helos and fixed-wing aircraft make the Gun Club a formidable aviation force. The Marines with whom I spoke picked the V-22 over the promised of the CH-53K. Out of the mouths of warfighters.

What say you on the matter of the CH-53K vs. the V-22 Osprey?

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