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Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CH-53E Super Stallion

MH-53E Sea Dragon

CH-53Es from HMM-264 prepare to take off fromUSS Bataan



First flight



Primary users

Heavy-lift cargo helicopter

Sikorsky Aircraft

1 March 1974


In service

United States Marine Corps

United States Navy
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

Number built

Unit cost


US$24.36 million (1992, avg. cost)

Developed from

Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion

Developed into

Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States
military. As the Sikorsky S-80 it was developed from the CH-53 Sea Stallion, mainly by adding a
third engine, adding a seventh blade to the main rotor and canting the tail rotor 20 degrees. It
was built by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The less common MH-53E Sea
Dragon fills the United States Navy's need for long range minesweeping or Airborne Mine
Countermeasures (AMCM) missions, and perform heavy-lift duties for the Navy. Under
development is the CH-53K King Stallion, which will be equipped with new engines,
new composite material rotor blades, and a wider aircraft cabin.

1 Development

1.1 Background

1.2 H-53E

1.3 CH-53K

2 Design

3 Operational history

3.1 1980s

3.2 1990s

3.3 2000s

4 Variants

5 Operators

6 Accidents

7 Specifications (CH-53E)

8 Notable appearances in media

9 See also

10 References

11 External links

The CH-53 was the product of the U.S. Marines' "Heavy Helicopter Experimental" (HH(X))
competition begun in 1962. Sikorsky's S-65 was selected over Boeing Vertol's modifiedCH-47
Chinook version. The prototype YCH-53A first flew on 14 October 1964. [1] The helicopter was
designated "CH-53A Sea Stallion" and delivery of production helicopters began in 1966. [2] The

first CH-53As were powered by two General Electric T64-GE-6 turboshaft engines with 2,850 shp
(2,125 kW) and had a maximum gross weight of 46,000 lb (20,865 kg) including 20,000 lb
(9,072 kg) in payload.
Variants of the original CH-53A Sea Stallion include the RH-53A/D, HH-53B/C, CH-53D, CH53G, and MH-53H/J/M. The RH-53A and RH-53D were used by the US Navy for mine sweeping.
The CH-53D included a more powerful version of the General Electric T64 engine, used in all H53 variants, and external fuel tanks. The CH-53G was a version of the CH-53D produced in West
Germany for the German Army.[1]
The US Air Force's HH-53B/C "Super Jolly Green Giant" were for special operations and combat
rescue and were first deployed during the Vietnam War. The Air Force's MH-53H/J/M Pave Low
helicopters were the last of the twin engined H-53s and were equipped with extensive avionics
upgrades for all weather operation.

In October 1967, the US Marine Corps issued a requirement for a helicopter with a lifting
capacity 1.8 times that of the CH-53D that would fit on amphibious warfare ships. The US Navy
and US Army were also seeking similar helicopters at the time. Before issue of the requirement
Sikorsky had been working on an enhancement to the CH-53D, under the company designation
"S-80", featuring a third turboshaft engine and a more powerful rotor system. Sikorsky proposed
the S-80 design to the Marines in 1968. The Marines liked the idea since it promised to deliver a
good solution quickly, and funded development of a testbed helicopter for evaluation. [3]

The YCH-53E on its first flight, 1 March 1974

In 1970, against pressure by the US Defense Secretary to take the Boeing Vertol XCH-62 being
developed for the Army, the Navy and Marines were able to show the Army's helicopter was too
large to operate on landing ships and were allowed to pursue their helicopter.[3]Prototype testing
investigated the addition of a third engine and a larger rotor system with a seventh blade in the
early 1970s. In 1974, the initial YCH-53E first flew.[4]
Changes on the CH-53E also include a stronger transmission and a fuselage stretched 6 feet
2 inches (1.88 m). The main rotor blades were changed to a titanium-fiberglass composite.[3] The
tail configuration was also changed. The low-mounted symmetrical horizontal tail was replaced
by a larger vertical tail and the tail rotor tilted from the vertical to provide some lift in hover while
counteracting the main rotor torque. Also added was a new automatic flight control system. [4] The
digital flight control system prevented the pilot from overstressing the aircraft. [3]
YCH-53E testing showed that it could lift 17.8 tons (to a 50-foot (15 m) wheel height), and without
an external load, could reach 170 knots (310 km/h) at a 56,000 pound gross weight. This led to
two preproduction aircraft and a static test article being ordered. At this time the tail was
redesigned to include a high-mounted, horizontal surface opposite the rotor with an inboard
section perpendicular to the tail rotor then at the strut connection cants 20 degrees to horizontal.

A production CH-53E during flight demonstration showing the three engines and the final tail assembly

The initial production contract was awarded in 1978, and service introduction followed in
February 1981.[3] The first production CH-53E flew in December 1980. [4] The US Navy acquired
the CH-53E in small numbers for shipboard resupply. The Marines and Navy acquired a total of
The Navy requested a version of the CH-53E for the airborne mine countermeasures role,
designated "MH-53E Sea Dragon". It has enlarged sponsons to provide substantially greater fuel
storage and endurance. It also retained the in-flight refueling probe, and could be fitted with up to
seven 300 US gallon (1,136 liter) ferry tanks internally. The MH-53E digital flight-control system
includes features specifically designed to help tow minesweeping gear.[3] The prototype MH-53E
made its first flight on 23 December 1981. MH-53E was used by the Navy beginning in 1986. The
MH-53E is capable of in-flight refueling and can be refueled at hover.[4] The Navy obtained a total
of 46 Sea Dragons and is converting the remaining RH-53Ds back to the transport role. [3]
A MH-53E Sea Dragon from HM-15 during a mine sweeping exercise, 2007

Additionally, a number of MH-53E helicopters have been exported to Japan as the S-80-M-1 for
the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
The base model CH-53E serves both the US Navy and Marines in the heavy lift transport role. It
is capable of lifting heavy equipment including the eight-wheeled LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicle,
the M198 155 mm Howitzer with ammunition and crew. The Super Stallion can recover aircraft
up to its size, which includes all Marine Corps aircraft except for the KC-130.

Main article: Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion
The US Marine Corps had been planning to upgrade most of their CH-53Es to keep them in
service, but this plan stalled. Sikorsky then proposed a new version, originally the "CH-53X", and
in April 2006, the USMC signed a contract for 156 aircraft as the "CH-53K". [5][6] The Marines are
planning to start retiring CH-53Es in 2009 and need new helicopters very quickly.[7]
In August 2007, the USMC increased its order of CH-53Ks to 227. [8] First flight was planned for
November 2011 with initial operating capability by 2015. [9]


View of the CH-53E's cockpit during an in-flight refueling operation with an Air Force HC-130 Hercules

Although dimensionally similar, the three engine CH-53E Super Stallion or Sikorsky S-80 is a
much more powerful aircraft than the original Sikorsky S-65 twin engined CH-53A Sea Stallion.
The CH-53E also added a larger main rotor system with a seventh blade.[citation needed]
The CH-53E can transport up to 55 troops or 30,000 lb (13,610 kg) of cargo and can carry
external slung loads up to 36,000 lb (16,330 kg).[3] The Super Stallion has a cruise speed of
173 mph (278 km/h) and a range of 621 miles (1,000 km).[10] The helicopter is fitted with a forward
extendable in-flight refueling probe and it can also hoist hose refuel from a surface ship while in
hover mode. It can carry three machine guns: one at the starboard side crew door; one at the
port window, just behind the copilot; and one at the tail ramp.[citation needed] The CH-53E also has chaffflare dispensers.[3]

A CH-53 sling loads a HMMWVduring a MAGTF demonstration

The MH-53E features enlarged side mounted fuel sponsons and is rigged for towing its mine
sweeping "sled" from high above the dangerous naval mines. The Sea Dragon is equipped with
mine countermeasures systems, including twin machine guns. Its digital flight-control system
includes features specifically designed to help towing mine sweeping gear.[3]
Upgrades to the CH-53E have included the Helicopter Night Vision System (HNVS),
improved .50 BMG (12.7 mm) GAU-21/A and M3Pmachine guns, and AAQ-29A forward looking
infrared (FLIR) imager.[3]
The CH-53E and the MH-53E are the largest helicopters in the Western world, while the CH-53K
now being developed will be even larger. They are fourth in the world to the Russian Mil Mi26 and Mil V-12, which can lift more than 22 tons (20 tonnes) and 44 tons (40 tonnes),
respectively and the Mi-26's predecessor Mil Mi-6, which has less payload (12 tonnes) but is
bigger and has a higher MTOW at 42 tonnes.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this
article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and
removed. (March 2015)
A pair of Super Stallion helicopters receive fuel from a KC-130 Herculeswhile transporting Humvees over theGulf
of Aden

USMC CH-53E recovering a disabled US Army CH-47 Chinook in eastern Afghanistan, 2010.

The Super Stallion variant first entered service with the creation of Heavy Marine Helicopter
Squadron 464 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. Two more squadrons were
created at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California over the next several years,HMH465 and HMH-466. In addition, one west coast training squadron, HMT-301, was given Super
Stallions as was one more east coast squadron, HMH-772, out of a reserve base at NASJRB
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Since then, other Marine Heavy lift squadrons have retired their
CH-53As and Ds, replacing them with Es.
The Marine Corps CH-53E saw its first shipboard deployment in 1983 when four CH-53E
helicopters from HMH-464 deployed aboard USSIwo Jima as part of the 24th Marine Amphibious
Unit (24th MAU).[citation needed] During this deployment Marines were sent ashore in Beirut,Lebanon as
peace keepers and established perimeters at and near the Beirut International Airport. On 23
October 1983 a truck bombdetonated by terrorists destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing
nearly 240 service members as they slept. CH-53E helicopters from the 24th MAU provided
critical combat support during this operation.

In 1991, two CH-53Es along with several CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters were sent to evacuate
U.S. and foreign nationals from the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu, SomaliaOperation Eastern
Exitas violence enveloped the city during the Somalian Civil War.[11]
During Operation Desert Storm, MH-53E shipboard based Sea Dragons were used for mine
clearing operations in the Persian Gulf offKuwait.
On 8 June 1995, Captain Scott O'Grady, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot shot down over Bosnia,
was rescued by two CH-53Es.[12]

On 26 October 2001 3 CH-53Es aboard USS Peleliu and 3 CH-53Es aboard USS Bataan flew
550 miles (890 km) to secure the first land base in Afghanistan, Camp Rhino, with 1100 troops at
its peak.[13] This amphibious raid is the longest amphibious raid in history. The long range
capability of the CH-53Es enabled Marines to establish a southern base in Afghanistan, putting
the war on the ground.[citation needed]
Super Stallions again played a major role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They were critical to
moving supplies and ammunition to the most forward Marine units and also assisted in moving
casualties back to the rear for follow on care. Marine CH-53Es and CH-46Es carried US Army

Rangers and Special Operations troops in a mission to rescue captured Army Private Jessica
Lynch on 1 April 2003.[14]
Currently about 152 CH-53E helicopters are in service with the Marines and another 28 MH-53Es
are in service with the U.S Navy. The CH-53 requires 44 maintenance hours per flight hour. A
flight hour costs about $20,000.[15]

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this
article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and
removed. (March 2015)
United States military designation for two Sikorsky S-65E (later S-80E) prototypes.
CH-53E Super Stallion
United States military designation for the S-80E heavy lift transport variant of the for the
United States Navy and Marine Corps, 170-built.
MH-53E Sea Dragon
United States military designation for the S-80M mine-countermeasures variant for the
United States Navy, 50-built.
Proposed presidential transport variant, not-built.
Export variant of the heavy lift transport variant, not-built.
Export variant of the mine-countermeasures variant, 11-built for Japan.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force MH-53E Sea Dragon lands
aboard USS Tortuga.

High speed, low level pass during demonstration at the National Test Pilot
School, Mojave, California


Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force[16]

United States

United States Marine Corps[16]










United States Navy[16]




Between 1969-1990, more than 200 servicemen had been killed in
accidents involving the CH-53A, CH-53D and CH-53E. [28] The MH-53E
Sea Dragon is the U.S. Navy's helicopter most prone to accidents, with
27 deaths from 1984 to 2008. During that timeframe its rate of Class A
mishaps, meaning serious damage or loss of life, was 5.96 per 100,000
flight hours, more than twice the Navy helicopter average of 2.26.[29] A
2005 lawsuit alleges that since 1993 there were at least 16 in-flight fires
or thermal incidents involving the No. 2 engine on Super Stallion
helicopters. The suit claims that proper changes were not made, nor
were crews instructed on emergency techniques.[30][31]

On 1 June 1984, a CH-53E based at Tustin was lifting a truck from

the deck of a ship during an exercise when a sling attached to the
truck broke. This sent a shock wave into the aircraft and caused
major damage. Four crew members died in the accident. [32]

On 19 November 1984, a CH-53E on a routine training mission at

Camp Lejeune, NC, was lifting a seven-ton howitzer before it
crashed. Six people were killed, and 11 injured.[32] It experienced a
loss of tail rotor function, lost control and impacted the ground. The
cabin area was quickly consumed by the ensuing fire.[33]

On 13 July 1985 a CH-53E from a Tustin squadron was on a flight

in Okinawa when it struck a logging cable and exploded. Four
people were killed.[32]

On 25 August 1985 a CH-53E from New River, NC, was flying a

routine supply and passenger run from Tustin to Twentynine Palms
during a training operation when it caught fire and crashed in

Laguna Hills. One of the three crew members was killed and the
aircraft was a total loss.[32][34]

On 9 May 1986, a CH-53E crashed during training exercises near

Twentynine Palms, killing four Marines and injuring another. The
accident was the Super Stallion's fifth crash in two-year period. [35]

On 8 January 1987, a Marine Corps CH-53E crashed while

practicing night landings for troop deployment at the Salton Sea
Test Range. All five crew members were killed.[36]

On 9 May 1996, a CH-53E crashed at Sikorsky's Stratford plant,

killing four employees on board. That led to the Navy grounding all
CH-53Es and MH-53Es.[30]

On 10 August 2000, a MH-53E Sea Dragon crashed in the Gulf of

Mexico near Corpus Christi and resulted in the deaths of its of four
crew members. The helicopters were later returned to service with
improved swash plate duplex bearings and new warning systems
for the bearings.[37]

On 20 January 2002, a CH-53E crash in Afghanistan killed two crew

members and injured five others. Defense Department officials said
the early-morning crash was the result of mechanical problems with
the helicopter.[38]

On 2 April 2002, a Navy MH-53E (BuNo 163051) of HM-14 crashed

on the runway at Bahrain International Airport. All 18 people on
board survived with only a few cases of minor injuries. [39]

On 27 June 2002, a Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon of Helicopter

Combat Support Squadron 4 (HC-4) "Black Stallions" crashed in a
hard landing at NAS Sigonella, Sicily. No one was injured, but the
aircraft was written off.[39][40]

On 16 July 2003, a Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon of Helicopter

Combat Support Squadron 4 (HC-4) "Black Stallions" crashed near
the town of Palagonia, about 10 miles west-southwest of Naval Air
Station Sigonella, killing the four member crew. The flight was on a
routine training mission.[40][41]

On 26 January 2005 a CH-53E carrying 30 Marines and one Navy

Corpsman crashed in Rutbah, Iraq, killing all 31 on board.[42]
A sandstorm was determined as the cause of the accident. The
crash was part of the deadliest day of the Iraq War in terms of US

On 16 February 2005, an MH-53E from Helicopter Combat Support

Squadron 4 (HC-4), based at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily,
crashed on the base, injuring the four crew members. [45]

On 17 February 2006, two CH-53Es carrying a combined U.S.

Marine Corps and Air Force crew collided during a training mission
over the Gulf of Aden, resulting in ten deaths and two injuries.[46][47]

On 16 January 2008, a Navy MH-53E on a routine training mission

crashed approximately four miles south of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Three crew members died in the crash and one crew member was
taken to local hospital for treatment and survived. [48]

On 29 June 2012, a Navy MH-53E from HM-14 made an

emergency landing five miles northeast of Pohang, South Korea
due to an in-flight fire. Though the pilots and aircrew were uninjured,
the aircraft was heavily damaged by the fire.[49]

On 19 July 2012 a Navy MH-53E crashed 58 miles south of Muscat,

Oman during a heavy lift operation, resulting in two deaths. [50]

On 8 January 2014, a US Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon crashed in the

Atlantic 18 nautical miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia with five crew
members on board. Three crew members perished in the mishap. [51]

On 1 September 2014, a US Marine CH-53E of the 22nd Marine

Expeditionary Unit crashed in the Gulf of Aden while attempting to
land on the USS Mesa Verde following training operations in
Djibouti. All 17 Marines and 8 sailors onboard were rescued. [54]

Specifications (CH-53E)[edit]

The CH-53E rotor and exhaust assembly in detail

A MH-53E towing the MK105minesweeping sled.

Data from U.S. Navy history,[55] International Directory,[2] World Aircraft[56]

General characteristics

Crew: 5: 2 pilots, 1 crew chief/right gunner, 1 left gunner, 1 tail

gunner (combat crew)

Capacity: 37 troops (55 with centerline seats installed)

Payload: internal: 30,000 lb or 13,600 kg (external: 32,000 lb or

14,500 kg)

Length: 99 ft 1/2 in (30.2 m)

Rotor diameter: 79 ft (24 m)

Height: 27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)

Disc area: 4,900 ft (460 m)

Empty weight: 33,226 lb (15,071 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 73,500 lb (33,300 kg)

Powerplant: 3 General Electric T64-GE-416/416A turboshaft,

4,380 shp[57] (3,270 kW) each

Rotor systems: 7 blades on main rotor, 4 blades on anti-torque tail



Maximum speed: 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h)

Cruise speed: 150 kt (173 mph, 278 km/h)

Range: 540 nmi (621 mi, 1,000 km)

Ferry range: 990 nmi (1,139 mi, 1,833 km)

Service ceiling: 18,500 ft (5,640 m)