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CH-53E Super Stallion

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States military.  It was developed from the CH-53 Sea Stallion, mainly by adding a third engine, a seventh blade to the main rotor and canting the tail rotor 20 degrees.  Sailors commonly refer to the Super Stallion as the "Hurricane Maker" because of the downwash the helicopter generates.  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 mine sweeping or Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) missions, and perform heavy-lift duties for the Navy.  The CH-53E/MH-53E are designated "S-80" by Sikorsky.  Currently under development is the CH-53K, which will be equipped with new engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider cabin. 

 

Development

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 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.

 

Design

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.

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). 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. 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 .50 BMG (12.7 mm) GAU-21/A and M3P 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.

 

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 ft² (460 m²)

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 (3,270 kW) each

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

 

Performance

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)

Rate of climb : 2,500 ft/min (13 m/s)

 

Armament

Guns:

 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