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CH-53E Super Stallion

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CH-53E Super Stallion
A CH-53E Super Stallion taking off from the deck of the USS Saipan.
Type Heavy-lift cargo helicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Introduced 1981
Status Active service
Primary users United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
Number built ≈115
Developed from CH-53 Sea Stallion

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 6000 shp-class turboshaft engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider cabin.


The base model CH-53E serves both the Navy and Marines in the heavy lift transport role. It is capable of lifting heavy equipment including the 8 wheeled LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicle (but not the U.S. Army Stryker, which is too heavy), the M198 155mm Howitzer with ammunition and crew, and can recover all other Marine corps aircraft except for the KC-130. 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.

Although dimensionally similar, the three engined S-80E is a much more powerful aircraft than the original Sikorsky "S-65" twin engined CH-53A Sea Stallion. Variants of the original Sea Stallion include the CH-53D, CH-53G, HH-53C, and the MH-53J Pave Low III. 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 RH-53A was used by the Navy for mine sweeping. The CH-53G was produced in West Germany for the German Army. The Air Force's HH-53B/HH-53C "Super Jolly Green Giant" was first deployed during the Vietnam War for special operations and combat rescue. The Air Force's MH-53J Pave Low III and MH-53M Pave Low IV were the last of the twin engined H-53's and were equipped with extensive avionics upgrades for all weather operation.

An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the Blackhawks of Helicopter Mine Counter Measure Squadron One Five (HM-15), prepares to launch from the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4).

The Super Stallion variation first entered service in 1981 with the creation of Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 464 in 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-53A's and D's, replacing them with E's. 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. Additionally, a number of MH-53 helicopters have been exported to Japan as the S-80-M-1 as part of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

Some of the roles fulfilled by the Marines' older CH-53D's and CH-46 Sea Knights will be transferred to the V-22 Osprey


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 second in the world only to the Russian Mil Mi-26, which can lift more than 20 tonnes.

The CH-53E can transport up to 55 troops or 14,515 kg of cargo and has an external load lift system that allows the helicopter to carry underslung loads up to 16,330 kg. The Super Stallion has a cruise speed of 278km/h and a maximum unrefuelled range of 2,000 km. The Super Stallion can extend its range and endurance by in flight refuelling. The helicopter is fitted with a forward extendable in-flight refuelling probe and it can also hoist hose refuel from a surface ship whilst in hover mode.

The MH-53s can operate from carriers and other warships. The Sea Dragon is capable of carrying up to 55 troops or a 16-ton payload 50 nautical miles or a 10-ton payload 500 nautical miles.

Operational history

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

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). 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, with the CH-53E averaging over 1000 accident free flight hours, per month, per aircraft.

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. Several land based squadrons of Marine Corps CH-53Es, including HMH-464, were deployed to forward areas in the Saudi desert near the Iraqi border. During Operation Desert Storm theses aircraft provided critical forward combat support in roles ranging from troop and cargo delivery, to special operations support.

On June 2, 1995, an F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by United States Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady was shot down while patrolling the NATO no-fly zone over Bosnia. After evading enemy capture for 6 days, O'Grady was rescued by a flight of United States Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and AH-1W Cobra gunships from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based on the USS Kearsarge.

On October 26, 2001 CH-53Es aboard the USS Peleliu flew 550 miles to secure the first land base in Afghanistan, Camp Rhino, with 1100 troops at its peak. 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.

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.

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 sailor for election purposes crashed in Rutbah, Iraq, killing all on board. A sandstorm has been determined as the cause of the accident. This incident was the main fatal event in one of 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.

A specially modified version is used to transport the President of the United states on short to medium length flights. This Super Stallion has the radio callsign HMX-1 or generally referred to as Marine 1.[citation needed]


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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.[1] 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 110nm.

While the CH-53K will keep virtually the same footprint as the CH-53E, the CH-53K's maximum gross weight will increase to 84,700 pounds versus 73,500 pounds for the CH-53E.

Specifications (CH-53E)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3: 2 pilots, crew chief
  • Capacity: 55 troops
  • Payload: 32,000 lb (15,000 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 ft² (460 m²)
  • Empty weight: 33,226 lb (15,071 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 73,500 lb (33,300 kg)
  • Powerplant:General Electric T64-GE-416(A) turboshafts, 4,380 shp (3,270 kW) each



  • Guns:
    • 2× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) window-mounted XM-218 machine guns
    • 1× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) ramp mounted weapons system, GAU-21 with M3M mounted machine gun
  • Other: Chaff and flare dispensers


  1. CH-53K: The U.S. Marines' HLR Helicopter Program (updated). Defense Industry Daily. Watershed Publishing LLC (December 28, 2006). Retrieved on 3 January, 2007.

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it:Sikorsky CH-53 ja:CH-53E (航空機)