...IOC “can’t come soon enough” for the Marine Corps, said Jesse Sloman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
“CH-53s are the only helicopter in the Corps’ inventory capable of carrying out the heavy-lift mission. And the K-model’s predecessor, the CH-53E, has the worst mission capable rate of any Marine aircraft,” he said.
“This is partly because the Marine Corps underfunded restorative maintenance for the CH-53E after the drawdown in Afghanistan, spending less than 10 percent per helicopter than the Army did for its transport aviation refurbishment,” he said.
Additionally, the service is only this year embarking on an extensive and overdue three-year maintenance program that will overhaul the CH-53E fleet, Sloman said.
Even with higher availability rates as a result of the overhaul, the service will be short 50 helicopters of the total 200 aircraft needed to meet its heavy-lift requirement, he said.
“It is imperative that the Corps stick to its timeline for transitioning to the K-model between fiscal year ‘19 and fiscal year ‘31 or the limited remaining CH-53Es will have to soldier on even longer, forcing the Marines to sink more money into a legacy platform and potentially grapple with increasingly challenging maintenance problems caused by the E-model’s age,” Sloman said.