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The CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopter has reached an important milestone with several successful air refueling tests with a US Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules. The air refueling capability was an essential requirement of the US Marine Corps, among other things, to make it easier to move to more distant areas of operation and to increase the service life. According to the manufacturer Sikorsky, the tests carried out have also been able to prove that the modern electronic fly-by-wire flight control system significantly reduces the workload of the crews during air refueling.

These tests are so interesting for the Bundeswehr that the CH-53K is one of the participants in the competition for the Bundeswehr's new heavy transport helicopter (STH) and that in future the Bundeswehr will also have the same refueling aircraft. An industrial team led by Sikorsky and Rheinmetall is applying with the CH-53K. The other competitor is the H-47F Chinook, which was launched by an industrial team led by Boeing and ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik GmbH.

The contract for the STH is expected early next year. The first delivery of the helicopters could then take place from 2024 in order to enable a seamless transition from the current CH-53G fleet, to train the relevant personnel and to create the logistical basis for operations in Germany.

As Rheinmetall assured, the delivered U.S. Marine Corps CH-53K will be ready for use by this time and the aircraft crews and maintenance technicians will be able to use their experience to support the initial training of Bundeswehr personnel.

The H-47F Chinook, on the other hand, is a long-established and established system, the capabilities of which have already been proven in worldwide use.

The deployment of the Bundeswehr's STH fleet and the transition from the currently used CH-53G should be completed by 2032.

Dorothee Frank