The CH-53K King Stallion is intended to be the new heavy-lift helicopter for the United States Marine Corps, replacing the CH-53E Super Stallion, which entered service in the 1980s. It's currently being tested, and looks pretty impressive, to say the least. But the Marines may not be the only buyers.
Believe it or not, the German Luftwaffe (yes, the current German Air Force is still called the Luftwaffe, according to its official website) may end up a customer for this helicopter. Surprised? Don't be. Germany actually operates a version of the CH-53, the CH-53G, a modified version of the CH-53D – a predecessor to the E models the Marine use. Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed, recently announced a strategic teaming agreement with Rheinmetall, a company Americans may know as the maker of the gun used on the M1A1 and M1A2 versions of the Abrams main battle tank.
The Luftwaffe has 81 CH-53Gs on inventory, each capable of hauling two Wiesel tankettes. (Bundeswehr photo)
A representative for Lockheed told WATM that the agreement means that "German suppliers will do the sustainment and maintenance of the aircraft. We will become a teammate to the German Armed Forces, to deliver what the customer wants – on time and parts assets they can rely on." Lockheed also says that other partners may be added as the CH-53K competes with the CH-47F to replace the Luftwaffe's fleet of CH-53Gs, which FlightGlobal.com notes totals 81 airframes.
WATM readers will note that the German CH-53Gs appeared in a recent article on the Wiesel, a small armored vehicle capable of packing the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile. CH-53Gs can carry two of these tankettes internally, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Germany is one of the few countries to buy the CH-53 from the United States - Israel and Iran also bought export models. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Jwnabd)
Israel is another export customer that uses earlier versions of the CH-53, and the Lockheed representative noted that it had expressed interest in the CH-53K. The United States Navy also operates 28 MH-53E airframes in the aerial minesweeping mission and for cargo delivery. Learn more about the Lockheed/Rhinemetall team-up and Germany's possible purchase of CH-53Ks in the video below.