The Coming of the CH-53K to the Force: A New Book-Length Study

By Robbin Laird

I have followed three new UMSC air platforms which have come into the force and have transformed their capabilities.

First, I have followed the Osprey since it entered the operational force in 2007 and continue to follow the progress of tiltrotor aircraft.

Second, Ed Timperlake, a former USMC squadron commander and I, not only followed the coming of the F-35B but played a role in defending the aircraft against its critics. Now the two systems work seamlessly together and have created the kind of capability which I have identified as being able to operate as combat clusters within a wider kill web.

Yet the CH-53K has a problem which the other two aircraft did not have – no one would confuse an Osprey with a CH-46 or an F-35B with a Harrier.

But the CH-53K looks similar to the CH-53D and E it replaces.

That is why I wrote the piece which I did a couple of years ago in which I suggested it might be better if it had been called a CH-55.

the CH-53K is the right aircraft at the right time.

I have recently published a new book about the aircraft and its synergy with distributed concepts of operations.

The book includes several of the interviews and articles I have written on the CH-53K based on various visits to various sites where the CH-53K has been developed, tested, manufactured, and delivered to its first operational squadron.

The interviews were done from 2016 through May 2023, and in one case one interview is included which I did as early as 2010. I have organized the book around a number of themes to highlight the coming of the aircraft and its potential impact on the USMC, the joint force, and international partners.

Now the CH-53K has arrived for the USMC and for the joint and allied forces.

The co-ops to facilitate the full use of the aircraft are unfolding as the Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force undergo a shift to distributed operations.

And these operations simply will not work without effective logistical enablers enabling the distributed forces to be sustained at the point of combat relevance.

Whether it be intra-theater lift in the Pacific or enabling and empowering expeditionary basing, the CH-53K is the right aircraft at the right time.

Although it looks like its ancestor, the CH-53K  is following a similar path to the Osprey and the F-35B in enabling significant innovation in the concept of operations for the Navy-Marine Corps team.

CH-53KTM and King Stallion are trademarks of the Department of the Navy.