New Marine Corps helicopters makes debut at New River

ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WITN) One of newest Marine Corps helicopters made its debut Wednesday at MCAS New River.

Military officials say it has been over 30 years since they've had a new model of heavy lifting helicopters. That all changed with the unveiling of an aircraft that's now faster and much stronger.

The new CH 53K King Stallion helicopter came into New River Air Station just before 1:00 Wednesday afternoon.

The Marine Corps says the goal is for this aircraft to replace the CH 53E.

Officials say the upgrade will be the first time that they've turned over the flight controls to a computer, but officials say this copter will go through extensive testing before it's used regularly.

Major William Cronkright says, "We define what it can do, what it should do, and then we try to refine it so it's what our fleet needs, and we work together between the developmental side at Pax River and the operational side here at New River to work together to have a good aircraft both mechanically and technically."

Pilots say that the King Stallions have three times the lifting capabilities of the CH 53E's, and they say that'll be a huge advantage for overseas missions.

While flight controls will now be operated by computer, military officials say there will still be a pilot inside at all times.

Seven more of the King Stallions are in production and they'll soon be delivered to other Marine Corps bases for testing.

The Marine Corps says the CH 53K is scheduled to be put into regular use beginning the summer of 2019.