The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion was introduced in 1981 seven years after its initial flight on March 1, 1974. Modeled after the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the Super Stallion was designed with a third engine and seven main rotor blades and some changes in the tail rotor. Built mainly for the US Marine Corps, the MH-53E Sea Dragon variant is used by the US Navy for mine sweeping and to perform heavy lifting.
Design and Development
In 1962, the US marines opened a competition in search of an experimental heavy helicopter. Sikorsky’s S-65 was chosen and designated the CH-53A Sea Stallion. Delivery began in 1966. Several variants followed including the well-known “Super Jolly Green Giant” (HH-53B/C) used by the US Air Force for their Special Operations and combat rescue and first dispatched during the Vietnam War.
By October of 1967, the U.S. Marine Corps required a heavy lift helicopter whose capacity could almost double that of the CH-53D, yet still able to fit on amphibious vehicles for transporting. The Army and Navy were looking into a similar type aircraft.
Sikorsky had already begun upgrades on the CH-53D with adding a third turbo shaft engine and upgrading the power of the rotor system. Once presented to the US Marine Corps, they provided the necessary funds to produce a test helicopter they could use for evaluation. In addition to the third engine and rotor system power, the new variant (YCH-53E) included a number of updates including the following:
- Stronger transmission
- Seventh rotor blade
- Titanium-fiberglass composite rotor blades
- Longer fuselage
- Change in the tail mount
- Automatic Flight Control System
After extensive testing, the prototype proved its strength capacity with a 17.8 ton lift. Production began and by December of 1980, the first CH-53E took flight.
Operational History of the CH-53E Super Stallion
In the 1980s, the US Marine Corps used this aircraft to assist with medical transport in Beirut after a truck bomb killed over 200 military and critically injured several others. The CH-53E was one of the helicopters sent into Somalia in 1991 to assist evacuating US and foreign nationals from the US embassy (Somalian Civil War). They were also operated during Desert Storm to sweep for mines in the Persian Gulf and in 1995 to rescue a downed F-16 Fighter pilot.
Beginning in 2001, the CH-53E was sent into Afghanistan to secure the very first land base (Camp Rhino). In 2003, they participated in the invasion of Iraq. Their participation was crucial in delivering supplies and ammunition to front line Marine units and transporting the critically injured.
Specifications of the CH-53E
- Crew: 5
- Capacity: 37 troops
- Maximum Take-Off Weight: 73,500 lbs.
- Maximum Speed: 196 miles per hour
- Cruising Speed: 173 miles per hour
- Range: 621 miles
- Climbing Rate: 2,500 feet per minute
- 2 x .50 BMG GAU-15/A machine guns (mounted on the windows)
- 1 x .50 BMG - weapons system (mounted on the ramp)
- GAU-21 M3M mounted machine gun
The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion remains the largest and heaviest helicopter in US service history and is still being used today by the US Marine Corps and the US Navy.