Colonel Jack Perrin Updates the Way Ahead for the CH-53K

By Robbin Laird

Recently, at a virtual international helicopter conference, Colonel Jack Perrin, Program Manager, PMA-261 H53 Heavy Lift Helicopters, US Naval Air Systems Command at Pax River Naval Air Station. provided an update on the Ch-53K program.

Indeed, when answering a question from the virtual audience, he underscored how the team – government and industry – had adapted to the challenging conditions to continue progress on the program and to continue to close on to the IOC for the program.

He noted that the sea trials held last year were done under challenging conditions but were completed very successfully.

This is a testament to a very good working team supporting the program and hats off to them being able to persist in the face of significant uncertainties.

But then again they are Marines!

The aircraft now enters a new phase of testing where it will be used to train Marines as they prepare for Operational Test and Evaluation later this year.

Col. Perrin focused significantly in his presentation on what the only new heavy lift helicopter for the joint force would bring to that force.

“I would tell you the 53K is what I would call the 5 th generation or the leading generation of heavy lift helicopters for all helicopters. It is fly by wire it has the power and speed that you really need in a helicopter and really executes its mission extremely well.”

He put a key point very well which pilots of the CH-53K have emphasized: “The pilots can put the aircraft where they need to in the combat environment.”

Colonel Perrin also emphasized the importance of enhanced survivability. “It was designed with survivability in mind.

“And what does that mean?

“When we define survivability it is how does the aircraft perform after its been hit and what I mean by that that is after its been shot at or after a missile has been shot at it.

“The 53K was designed to perform extremely well to get those pilots and crew out of that danger area…. Its ability to have survivability and survivability capabilities are extremely good.”

He was asked a question of how it would work with the Osprey and highlighted how the two working together would help redefine the nature of the assault force.

Some of that change was already presaged in the Deepwater exercise conducted last summer at 2nd Marine Air Wing.

He concluded: “We’re just going to be able to bring more and farther and faster with the 53K as it integrates and moves forward …. I see this as a backbone of support, logistic support for the Marine Corps.”

Since his presentation, much of what he projected about the way ahead with regard to the aircraft has been validated by the IDF’s decision to purchase CH-53Ks to replace their legacy heavy lift helicopters.

The country’s Defense Ministry announced their decision on Feb. 25, 2021.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz selected the single-main-rotor 53K over the tandem rotor Chinook based on recommendations from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi and Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) said the 53K was chosen after “extensive administrative work, during which IAF personnel examined various flight platforms and evaluated aspects such as technology, engineering, maintenance, and more.”

In a statement, the ministry said: “The decision was made following a professional assessment that included test flights in all the proposed aircraft, as well as a thorough examination of the various alternatives in terms of engineering, technology, maintenance and other considerations.

“All details, including the number of helicopters requested, will be brought to the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Procurement as soon as possible.”

According to The Times of Israel:

“The Defense Ministry had been wavering between the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopters to replace its 50-year-old CH-53 helicopters, whose Israeli version is named Yassur.

“When Gantz came into his post last year, he ordered the military to reconsider purchasing the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which can function as both an airplane and a helicopter, giving the military — particularly special forces — greater flexibility.

“That sent the ministry back to the drawing board and significantly extended the selection process.”

As to the why?

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the “decision to buy new transport helicopters after several decades is a significant step in building the IDF’s power, and is vital for carrying out a wide range of routine and combat operational missions

“The new helicopter is adapted to our operational needs and to the challenges of the changing battlefield.”

The featured photo is from 2009 when Perrin was selected as test pilot of the year.

Major Jack D. Perrin, left , receives his award as the 2008 John Glenn Test Pilot of the Year from Lt. Gen. George Trautman, the Deputy Commander for Aviation for the United States Marine Corps.