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The US Marine Corps and CH-53K manufacturer Sikorsky have successfully carried out air-to-air refueling tests on a KC-130J tanker aircraft over Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the USA. During the 4.5-hour test, several dry contacts between the tanker and the helicopter were reached, in which no fuel was released. The contacts with the tank hose and the funnel-shaped basket took place with constantly increasing flight speeds in order to test the influence of the turbulence behind the tanker plane.

The air refueling capability is an important feature in order to achieve the required long-distance properties. The fueling tests are one of the last pieces of evidence before the development tests are completed. The schedule foresees the evaluation of the CH-53K in series configuration next year and the first operational capability from 2023 to 2024.

The CH-53K competes for the Bundeswehr heavy transport helicopter. The selection of a provider is still pending.

Gerhard Heiming