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CH-53E Super Stallion

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  • CH-53E Super Stallion

    The CH-53E Super Stallion, the Marine Corps' heavy lift helicopter, is one of the few helicopters in the world configured with 3 gas turbine engines and in-flight refueling. The CH-53E is a larger version of the CH-53 Sea Stallion, and the largest helicopter in the U.S. military inventory. It is used to transport personnel and equipment, lift heavy loads and conduct minesweeping missions. The Air Force version, equipped with sophisticated electronic countermeasures systems, is used for long-range delivery and resupply of special operations forces and combat rescue missions.

    Designed for the transportation of material and supplies, it is compatible with most amphibious class ships and is carried routinely aboard LHA (Landing, Helicopter, Assault: an amphibious assault ship), LPH (Landing Platform, Helicopter: an amphibious assault ship) and now LHD (Landing, Helicopter, Dock: an amphibious assault ship) type ships. The helicopter is capable of lifting 16 tons (14.5 metric tons) at sea level, transporting the load 50 nautical miles (57.5 miles) and returning. A typical load would be a 16,000 pound (7264 kilogram) M198 howitzer or a 26,000 pound (11,804 kilogram) Light Armored Vehicle. The aircraft also can retrieve downed aircraft including another CH-53E. The 53E is equipped with a refueling probe and can be refueled in flight giving the helicopter indefinite range.

    The CH-53E Super Stallion is a shipboard helicopter configured for the lift and movement of cargo and personnel and the external lift of heavy oversized equipment. The CH-53E is the only helicopter capable of lifting some of the new weapon systems in the Marine Corps, including the M-198 Howitzer and the variants of the new Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). The MH-53E Sea Dragon is a multimission variant of the CH-53E with enhanced airborne mine countermeasures capability over the Navy RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter, including increased range and navigation capability. The CH-53E is the largest helicopter in the western world, with a maximum gross weight of 73,500 pounds. Its increased military capabilities over the earlier CH53 models include larger payloads, extended range and inflight refueling.

    The CH-53E Super Stallion is a follow-on for its predecessor, the CH-53D Sea Stallion. Improvements include the addition of a third engine to give the aircraft the ability to lift the majority of the Fleet Marine Force's equipment, a dual point cargo hook system, improved main rotor blades, and composite tail rotor blades. A dual digital automatic flight control system and engine anti-ice system give the aircraft an all-weather capability. The helicopter seats 37 passengers in its normal configuration and has provisions to carry 55 passengers with centerline seats installed. With the dual point hook systems, it can carry external loads at increased airspeeds due to the stability achieved with the dual point system.

    Derived from an engineering change proposal to the twin-engine CH-53D helicopter, the CH-53E has consistently proven its worth to the Fleet commanders with its versatility and range. With four and one half hours' endurance, the Super Stallion can move more equipment over rugged terrain in bad weather and at night. During Operation Eastern Exit two CH-53Es launched from amphibious ships and flew 463 nautical miles (532.45 miles) at night, refueling twice enroute, to rescue American and foreign allies from the American Embassy in the civil war-torn capital of Mogadishu, Somalia in January of 1990. Two CH-53Es rescued Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady in Bosnia in June 1995.

    In recent years, one of the major thrusts in the helicopter industry has been to produce more aesthetically pleasing designs. One exception to this has been the CH-53 Sea Stallion which, in its new CH-53E Super Stallion model and the MH-53E mine countermeasures version, has regressed significantly with various appurtenances and surfaces at different odd angles. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Marine combat officer who needs to move a 16-ton external load over rugged terrain to achieve his objective would find the newest Marine helicopter, hovering overhead as it picks up the load, beautiful!

    The CH-53E is an obvious derivative from its CH-53 series forebears. However, the major changes necessary to provide the largest lift capability in the free world have resulted in its being given a new company model number, S-80 in lieu of S-65, for non-U.S. military sales. In many ways, like Topsy, it just grew from the earlier models. Recognizing the need for increased lift capability but not to the extent considered necessary by the Army in its HLH (heavy lift helicopter) program, the Marines, the Naval Air Systems Command and Sikorsky combined forces to develop the CH-53 from a 10-ton to a 16-plus-ton lifter.

    Starting off with two concepts, a third engine and a seventh main rotor blade (all with increased diameter), a ground test rig was first built in the early 1970s. Two YCH-53E prototypes followed successful completion of these tests, the first making its initial hovering and limited maneuvering flight on 1 March 1974. In addition to the engine and rotor changes and generally increased size, the most obvious change was in the tail configuration: a low-mounted symmetrical horizontal tail was surmounted by a larger vertical tail and tail rotor tilted from the vertical so that the tail rotor provided some lift in hover while counteracting the main rotor torque.

    Not as obvious were the many internal improvements, particularly a new automatic flight control system. By August 1974, the first YCH-53E had shown that it could lift 17.8 tons to a 50-foot wheel height and, without an external load, could reach 170 knots at a 56,000-pound gross weight. The capabilities demonstrated were such that, in spite of a number of setbacks in the subsequent development test program, NPEs and other milestones were achieved, and the first two preproduction aircraft and a static test article were ordered, the first flying in December 1975. By this time, the tail had been redesigned to include a single, high-mounted, strut-braced horizontal surface opposite the rotor on the 20-degree canted vertical surface, the inboard section being perpendicular to the vertical with a bend to horizontal at the strut juncture.

    By the spring of 1977 testing, including shipboard trials on Iwo Jima, was well along and full production was subsequently ordered. The Dual Digital Automatic Flight Control System had proven its worth--technologically one of the newest systems in the Super Stallion and one that gives it exceptionally good flying qualities in all flight modes.

    The first production aircraft flew in December 1980, being delivered to Marine squadron HMH-464 in mid-1981. Further Marine deliveries have continued and Navy squadron HM-12 took delivery of its first Navy CH-53E in November 1982 for vertical onboard delivery (VOD) operations. Modification of the first Navy production CH-53E to the MH-53E configuration led to the MH version being the Navy's principal mine countermeasures helicopter beginning in 1986. Its capability to lift (including retrieval of all Marine and most Navy carrier tactical aircraft, as well as itself), to transport heavy internal loads at reasonable speeds for extended ranges, and to tow MCM gear for long durations, makes the Super Stallion a mainstay of Naval Aviation for many years to come.

    In 1994 the Navy had planned to buy 4 CH-53E aircraft in fiscal year 1995. However, the actual budget request for fiscal year 1995 included only $41.1 million to close the CH-53 production line. This decision reflected a broader Navy plan that included shifting CH-53E helicopters from Navy vertical on-board delivery (VOD) squadrons to the Marine Corps; back-filling VOD squadrons with MH-53Es from airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) squadrons; and outfitting some air-cushion landing craft (LCAC) with mine countermeasures equipment, making it an "MCAC." These actions persuaded the Navy that it could truncate procurement of the CH-53Es at the end of the fiscal year 1994 buy. The 4 CH-53Es that the Navy had planned to buy already represented a reduction from previous estimates, which had included purchases of MH-53Es as well. This change reflected in part a Navy decision to reduce AMCM force structure. In 1994, concerned about apparent year-to-year inconsistencies in the Navy's force structure plans, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked the Navy for a study of mine countermeasures force levels. The Navy's report concluded that the overall mine countermeasures force structure was marginally adequate to support the mine countermeasures scenarios that the Navy studied. However, the report analyzed requirements only for sea lines of communications (areas like the Straits of Hormuz or the Sea of Japan). It did not deal with mine countermeasures operations to support port operations or amphibious operations.

    From FY 1996 through FY 1997, a Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) was conducted to develop usage and fatigue life profile, and an Integrated Mechanical Diagnostic (IMD) system for the H-53E. FY 1998 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) begins to correct deficiencies in aircraft dynamic components and mission systems. The effort will increase reliability, maintainability, and safety while reducing the cost of ownership. The Marine Corps Aviation Plan shows the CH-53D remaining in service through 2015. Therefore a Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) must be conducted in order to ascertain what actions must be taken to safely operate the aircraft until it is replaced by the MV-22. The results of these efforts will be used to justify APN-5 funding of a SLEP for the CH-53D if warranted. FY 99 funding is also utilized for Phase II of the CH-53E SLEP.

    In August 2000 the Marine Corps grounded its fleet of 155 CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, because of failing components. Full recovery of the CH-53E fleet was achieved in March 2001.

    Over 50% of all helicopter safety critical defects are related to engine, gearbox and mechanical drive-train failures. Advanced vibration monitoring systems enable such defects to be diagnosed and isolated before critical failure, thus improving airworthiness. The introduction of such systems also greatly reduces the need for routine preventative inspections, thus improving fleet availability. Demonstrated on US Navy SH-60 and Australian S-70, the technology is in-service on CH-53 Sea Stallion, SH-60 Sea Hawk and AH-1Z Cobra as part of the Integrated Mechanical Diagnostics (IMD) system.

    Since their arrival in Djibouti in early April 2003, HMH 461 was instrumental in accomplishing the Combined Joint Task Force Horn-of-Africa’s mission of detecting, disrupting and defending against trans-national terrorists by supplying organic operational reach and providing flexibility to a wide variety of counter-terrorism activities across the region. The Ramp Mounted Weapon System (RMWS) has been added to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron’s CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, giving them 180 degrees of defensive fire from the rear of the aircraft. The RMWS was being evaluated as a possible defensive weapon system for several assault support aircraft in the Marine Corps, but HMH 461 is the first Fleet Marine Force squadron to actually implement the system in real-word operations. The RMWS is a Fabrique Nationale (FN) M3M .50-caliber machine gun modified into a weapon system specific for Marine Corps applications.

    The CH-53 has tremendous capabilities and there have been several instances where this capability could have directly benefited Marines. The missions the CH-53 has been called upon to do have been long-range, over the horizon, sometimes without escort missions. During the O’Grady rescue in September 1995, they were able to take Cobras with them, but it was a relatively long-range, over the horizon mission. The inability to have a rear-mounted suppressive fire capability could have cost them significantly. Fortunately, the missiles that were shot at them didn’t impact the aircraft. During missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Marines were cargo strapping personnel on the ramp of the aircraft with M16’s (Marine standard issue assault rifle) and M60’s (medium machine gun) to provide a rear suppressive-fire capability.

    Alan H. Barbour, Historian
    USMC Combat Helicopter Assoc
    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

  • #2
    CH-53E General Characteristics

    General Characteristics
    Unit cost: $25 million (1993 dollars)

    Crew: Two officers (pilots); four enlisted (two flight engineers, two aerial gunners)

    Date Deployed: 1981

    CH-53E USMC Inventory: 160



    Sikorsky Aircraft (Prime), General Electric (Engines)


    • Seven-blade main rotor
    • Four-blade canted tail rotor
    • Designed for land- and ship-based operations
    • Automatic flight control and anti-icing systems give the helicopter an all-weather flight capability.
    • Empty weight: 33,226 pounds
    • Maximum gross weight: 73,500 pounds
    • Fuel capacity: 15,483 pounds (2,277 gallons/JP-5)
    • Overall length: 99 ft 1/2 in
    • Height: 28 ft 4 in
    • Rotor diameter: 79 ft
    • Can be configured for wheeled or palletized cargo
    • Seats for 55 passengers or litters for 24 patients
    • External cargo of up to 36,000 pounds may be transported by using either the single- or two-point suspension system.
    • Can conduct air-to-air refueling and helicopter in-flight refueling (HIFR)
    • Has provisions for internal range extension tanks

    Power Plant:

    Three General Electric T64-GE-416/416A turboshaft engines
    Each engine can produce 4,380 shaft horsepower


    • Maximum range (unrefueled): 480 nautical miles
    • Ferry range: 990 nautical miles
    • Maximum endurance (unrefueled): 5.1 hours
    Maximum allowable airspeed: 150 knots


    APR-39 Radar Hazard Warning Set
    ALE-39 Chaff and Flare Dispenser
    ALQ-157 Infrared Jammer
    AAR-47 Missile Warning System

    Mission and Capabilities:

    • Primary mission is movement and vertical delivery of cargo and equipment.
    • When properly equipped, can be used for airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM)
    • Designed to carry 32,000 pounds of cargo at cruise speed to a range of no less than 50 nautical miles
    • At destination, the helicopter can discharge its cargo, equipment, or troops and return no less than 50 nautical miles—arriving with at least 20 minutes of fuel in reserve.
    • Designed to retrieve another CH-53E at a range of 20 nautical miles

    Program Summary:

    • The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have purchased 172 CH-53Es and have accepted delivery of 149.
    • Operated by six tactical squadrons, one training squadron, and one special mission squadron.
    • Current procurement objective for support of active force requirements is 186 aircraft.
    • Slated to replace the aging RH-53D in two Marine Corps Reserve squadrons.
    • Planned to be operational through 2025
    • Improved operational capability at night and during periods of reduced visibility will be provided by incorporating Helicopter Night Vision System (HNVS) and the Aviator Night Vision System/Head-Up Display (ANVIS/HUD).
    • Enhanced night fighting capability is provided by modifying interior and exterior lighting systems for Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatibility.
    • Pilot and copilot crashworthy seats have been incorporated.
    • Improved troop seats, which allow for rapid cabin reconfiguration, will also be incorporated.
    • Additional modifications include: the Global Positioning System (GPS), the AN/ARC-210 radio, improved engine fire detection, and a tail rotor coupling monitor.

    Alan H. Barbour, Historian
    USMC Combat Helicopter Assoc
    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"


    • #3
      serious discrepency

      [SIZE=2][FONT=Book Antiqua]The information from global security on the CH-53E is pretty accurate except for one glaring error. Crew:6, 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 2 gunners. Maybe in the Airforce but as stingy as the Marine Corps is when it comes to manpower 4 crewman in the back made me laugh out loud. True crewchiefs now have their own MOS and a dedicted school but aside from that the job remains the same as it always has. A crew chief, atleast in the Marines, is a mechanic. I guess you can call that a flight engineer but mech suits us just fine. He is also the door gunner, the plane captain, and the load master. Most of the time he has the help of another crew chief or aerial gunner. Sometimes hes by himself, usually when performing functional check flights. Other times he has a third crewman whether they're manning a (worthless) ramp gun or just helping with a large cargo drop. Aerial gunners can still be pulled from the maintenance dept (Airframes, Avi, even Maint. Admin)and put on "skins" and wrench turners that excel can become "Home Grown" crew chiefs. I just wanted to clarify so you old salts wouldn't think we had gotten soft.[/FONT][/SIZE]
      [FONT=Book Antiqua]
      [SIZE=4]Semper Fi[/FONT][/SIZE]


      • #4

        I spent 8 years at New River, started out in HMH-461 and finished with HMH-362 in 1988. While I was in 362, we always had a shortage of Crew chiefs. When we had an LF6F Det out to a 46 squadron, it was not unusual to have two or three of our remaining Crewchiefs fly 80,90 and somtimes on occasions 100 hours in a month. It was easy to do because we were scheduled for 5 hours per flight. As for your comment about getting soft don't worry, no Marine that flys as a Crewmember or pilot on any helicopter type or C-130 for that matter, would be considered soft. I now work for a Government law enforcement agency and our AS350's have aircondition systems, if the aircondition is down the pilot will not fly the aircraft, that is the definition of soft. Keep up the good work and Semper Fi.

        CH-53D and UH-1N
        UH-1N and CH-53D