CH-53E Super Stallion

Infobox Aircraft
name= CH-53E Super Stallion MH-53E Sea Dragon

caption=A CH-53E Super Stallion taking off from the deck of the USS "Saipan".
type=Heavy-lift cargo helicopter
manufacturer=Sikorsky Aircraft
first flight=
introduced = 1981
status=Active service
primary user=United States Marine Corps
more users=United States Navy Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
number built = ≈115
unit cost = US$24.36 million (1992) average [ [ Sikorsky S-80 / CH-53E page on] ]
developed from = CH-53 Sea Stallion
variants with their own articles =

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion (Sikorsky S-80E), is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States military. Sailors commonly refer to the Super Stallion as the "Hurricane Maker" because of the downward thrust the helicopter generates. It was built by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The less common MH-53E Sea Dragon fills the Navy's need for long range mine sweeping or Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) missions, and perform heavy-lift duties for the Navy.

Currently under development is the CH-53K, which will be equipped with three 6,000 shp-class turboshaft engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider cabin.



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 modified CH-47 Chinook version. The prototype YCH-53A first flew on October 14, 1964. [ Sikorsky Giant Helicopters: S-64, S-65, & S-80] ,, May 1, 2006.] The helicopter was designated "CH-53A Sea Stallion" and delivery of production helicopters began in 1966.Frawley, Gerard: "The International Directory of Military Aircraft", p. 148. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.] 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 max gross weight of 46,000 lb (20,865 kg) including 20,000 lb (9,072 kg) in payload. [ Sikorsky S-65 page] ,]

Variants of the original CH-53A Sea Stallion include the RH-53A/D, HH-53B/C, CH-53D, CH-53G, 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 H-53 variants, and external fuel tanks. The CH-53G was a version of the CH-53D produced in West Germany for the German Army.

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 assault vessels. 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 testbed machine for evaluation. [ S-80 Origins / US Marine & Navy Service / Japanese Service] ,, May 1, 2006.]

In 1970, against pressure by the US Defense Secretary to take the Army's helicopter design, the Navy and Marines were able show the Army's helicopter was too large to operate on landing ships and were allowed to pursue their helicopter. 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. [ CH-53A/D/E Sea Stallion AND MH-53E Sea Dragon] , US Navy, 15 November 2000.]

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. 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. The digital flight control system prevented the pilot from overstressing the aircraft.

YCH-53E testing showed 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. 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.

The initial production contract was awarded in 1978, and service introduction followed in February 1981. The first production CH-53E flew in December 1980. The US Navy acquired the CH-53E in small numbers for shipboard resupply. The Marines and Navy acquired a total of 177.

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. The prototype MH-53E made its first flight on December 23, 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. The Navy obtained a total of 46 Sea Dragons and is converting the remaining RH-53Ds back to the transport role.

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, and can recover all other Marine corps aircraft except for the KC-130.


The CH-53K is the Heavy Lift replacement helicopter being developed to supersede the CH-53E. Sikorsky just received $3.04 billion for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the CH-53K aircraft, to include 4 SDD aircraft, 1 ground test vehicle, and associated program management and test support. Rockwell Collins has recently been selected by Sikorsky as the vendor for the avionics management system.

The CH-53K will use the General Electric GE38-1B engine. This engine beat out the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW150 and a derivative of the Rolls-Royce AE 1107C-Liberty that powers the V-22 Osprey. [cite web | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = CH-53K: The U.S. Marines' HLR Helicopter Program (updated) | work = Defense Industry Daily | publisher = Watershed Publishing LLC | date = 2006-12-28 | url = | format = | doi = | accessmonthday= 3 January | accessyear= 2007 ] It will also be equipped with a new composite rotor blade system, with technology similar to that currently found on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

There is need for a new Heavy Lift helicopter that can transport heavy payloads over longer distances. The CH-53K is expected to meet these requirements by increasing, and thus surpassing the radius-payload capability of the CH-53E by carrying nearly double the payload (27,000 pounds) over the same distance of 110 nm.

The CH-53K will keep virtually the same footprint as the CH-53E. The CH-53K's maximum gross weight will be 84,700 pounds, which is increased over the CH-53E's 73,500 pounds. [ "Sikorsky Selects CH-53K Fuselage Supplier Team"] , Sikorsky Aircraft, May 9, 2007.]

Sikorsky has announced its major subcontractors: Aurora Flight Sciences (main rotor pylon), [,9602,CLI1_DIV69_ETI2456,00.html "Sikorsky Selects CH-53K Fuselage Supplier Team"] , Sikorsky Aircraft, May 9, 2007.] EDO Corporation (tail rotor pylon and sponsons), GKN Aerospace (aft transition), Rockwell Collins (avionics management system), [ "Rockwell Collins selected to provide CH-53K Avionics"] , Sikorsky Aircraft, June 29, 2006.] Sanmina-SCI Corporation (Intercommunications System), and Spirit AeroSystems (cockpit and cabin).

In 2007, the USMC increased its order of CH-53Ks from 156 to 227. [cite web |url= |title=Marines Up Order for New Heavy Lifter |accessdate=2007-08-12 |date=2007-08-01 |work=Rotor & Wing |publisher=Access Intelligence, LLC.]


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.

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). The Super Stallion has a cruise speed of 173 mph (278 km/h) and a range of 621 miles (1,000 km). [ [ CH-53D/E page] , USMC, accessed November 3, 2007.] The helicopter is fitted with a forward extendable in-flight refuelling 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.Fact|date=January 2008 The CH-53E also has chaff-flare dispensers.

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.

Upgrades to the CH-53E have included the Helicopter Night Vision System (HNVS), improved M3M GAU-21 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, and AAQ-29A Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) imager.

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 third in the world to the Russian Mil Mi-26 and Mil Mi-12, which can lift more than 22 tons (20 tonnes) and 44 tons (40 tonnes), respectively.

Operational history


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 in Tustin, California over the next several years, the HMH-465 and HMH-466. In addition, one west coast training squadron, HMT-301, was given several Super Stallions. 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 Marine Heavy Helicopters Squadron 464 (HMH-464) deployed aboard the USS "Iwo Jima" as part of Marine Amphibious Unit 24 (24th MAU).Fact|date=March 2007 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 terrorist truck bomb 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, several CH-53Es along with several CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters were sent to Mogadishu, Somalia to evacuate U.S. and foreign nationals from the U.S. embassy during the Somalian Civil War.

During Operation Desert Storm, MH-53E shipboard based Sea Dragons were used for mine clearing operations in the Persian Gulf off Kuwait.

On June 2, 1995, Captain Scott O'Grady an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot shot down over Bosnia, was rescued by two CH-53Es. [ [ Globalsecurity CH-53E Super Stallion article] ]


On October 26, 2001 3 CH-53Es aboard the USS "Peleliu" and 3 CH-53Es aboard USS "Bataan" flew 550 miles to secure the first land base in Afghanistan, Camp Rhino, with 1100 troops at its peak. [ [ Statement of Admiral Vern Clark, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 25th February 2003] ] 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.Fact|date=March 2007

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. [Stout, Jay A. "Hammer from Above, Marine Air Combat Over Iraq". Ballantine Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0-89141-871-9.]

In the early morning hours of January 26, 2005 a CH-53E used in the transport of 30 Marines from the 1st Marine Division and 1 Navy Corpsman (sailor) for election purposes crashed in Rutbah, Iraq, killing all on board. [ [;jsessionid=AUZRM3ZUGWZYFQFIQMGSFFWAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/08/22/wheli322.xml Worst US air losses in Iraq] ] [ [ Iraq air crash kills 31 US troops] ] A sandstorm has been determined as the cause of the accident. This incident was the main fatal event in the single bloodiest day for the U.S. military since an explosion ripped through a gun turret on the USS "Iowa" during a training exercise in the Caribbean in April 1989, killing 47 sailors. [ [ Explosion and Fire Kill at Least 47 on Navy Warship] ]

The Sea Dragon is the Navy's helicopter that's most prone to accidents, with 27 deaths since 1984. Its rate of "serious mishaps" ($1 million damage or death) is 5.96 per 100,000 flight hours, more than twice the Navy helicopter average of 2.26. [cite news |url= |title=Copter that crashed, left three dead has Navy's worst record |publisher=Associated Press |author=Christopher Sherman |date=2008-01-19 ]

Currently about 100 CH-53E helicopters are in service with the Marines and another 15 MH-53Es are in service with the U.S Navy.


*Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force;USA
*United States Marine Corps
*United States Navy

pecifications (CH-53E)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=copter
jet or prop?=prop

ref=U.S. Navy history, [ [ CH-53A/D/E Sea Stallion and MH-53E Sea Dragon] , US Navy.] Global Security, [ [ H-53 specifications] ,] International Directory
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 main=32,000 lb
payload alt=15,000 kg
length main=99 ft 1/2 in
length alt=30.2 m
height main=27 ft 9 in
height alt=8.46 m
span main=79 ft
span alt=24 m
area main=4,900 ft²
area alt=460 m²
empty weight main=33,226 lb
empty weight alt=15,071 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=73,500 lb
max takeoff weight alt=33,300 kg
more general=Rotor systems: 7 blades on main rotor
engine (prop)=General Electric T64-GE-416(A)
type of prop=turboshafts
number of props=3
power main=4,380 shp
power alt=3,270 kW
max speed main=170 knots
max speed alt=196 mph, 315 km/h
cruise speed main=150 kt
cruise speed alt=173 mph, 278 km/h
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
range main=540 nmi
range alt=621 mi, 1,000 km
range more=
combat radius main=
combat radius alt=
ferry range main=990 nmi
ferry range alt=1,139 mi, 1,833 km
ceiling main=18,500 ft
ceiling alt=5,640 m
climb rate main=2,500 ft/min
climb rate alt=13 m/s
loading main=
loading alt=
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
** 2× .50 BMG (12.7 x 99 mm) window-mounted XM218 machine guns
** 1× .50 BMG (12.7 x 99 mm) ramp mounted weapons system, GAU-21 (M3M mounted machine gun)
* Other: Chaff and flare dispensers

ee also

* CH-53 Sea Stallion
* MH-53 Pave Low
similar aircraft=
* CH-47 Chinook
* Mil Mi-26
* List of active military aircraft of the United States
* List of helicopters
see also=


* [,9604,1842,00.pdf Sikorsky CH-53K Helicopter brochure]
* [ Assessment of Existing Rotorcraft Technology/Cost]

External links

* [ CH-53/MH-53E history] and [ CH-53E pages on] ; [ CH-53E] and [ CH-53D/E page on]
* [ CH-53E/S-80E page] and [ MH-53E page on]
* [ The History of Heavy Lift: Can the 1947 Vision of an All Heavy Helicopter Force Achieve Fruition in 2002?]
* [ CH-53E] and [ MH-53E pages on]
* [ Sikorsky S-80 / CH-53E page on]

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