Courtesy imageSikorsky Aircraft’s CH-53K heavy lift helicopter program has hit a major milestone in its development.
Sikorsky has powered on the engines and spun the rotor head on the first prototype, the company said Tuesday.
Spirit AeroSystems builds the fuselage for the CH-53K in Wichita.
The helicopter is being developed for the Marine Corps.
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The helicopter, called the Ground Test Vehicle, will undergo ground testing for about two years with Sikorsky and Marine test pilots at the controls.
It has been anchored to the ground at a remote outdoor test site in West Palm Beach, Fla., and outfitted with sensors to measure and verify the ability to operate safely under its own power, Sikorsky said.
Four more test aircraft are being prepared for flight tests, commencing in late 2014.
The first CH-53K is expected to be in operation in 2019.
Plans are for 200 aircraft, but production quantities will be based each year on funding allocations set by Congress and the Department of Defense funding priorities.
The Marine Corps plans to have eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements, it said.