Military


H-53 / Sikorsy S-65 family

The Sikorsy S-65 family of two- or three-engine helicopters are in military service as the H-53. The largest and heaviest helicopter in the American military, the H-53 is a heavy helicopter designed for the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel. The H-53s can operate from carriers and other warships. The CH-53 has performed its multi-role mission lifting both equipment and personnel in training and combat. In Operation Desert Storm the helicopter performed with distinction. The Super Stallion, an indispensable workhorse, is vital to the Fleet's assault and heavy-lift capability and airborne mine countermeasures mission.

The CH-53A was ordered in the early l960s to satisfy a Marine Corps requirement for a heavy lift helicopter. Other variants of the H-53 are the RH-53P and the MH-53E, which are used for mine countermeasures. Used extensively both afloat and ashore, the Sea Stallion was the heavy lift helicopter for the Marine Corps until the introduction of the CH-53E triple engine variant of the H-53 family into the fleet in 1981. The CH-53E Super Stallion, first delivered in 1980, is larger and can carry greater loads than the Sea Stallion. It has a third engine and a seven-blade rotor in place of the two engines and six-blade rotor in the Sea Stallion. It also has an upgraded transmission and can transport an external cargo of 16 tons (14.4 metric tons) for 5O nautical miles (57.5 statute miles, 92 km.).

The Marine Corps, in a search for a new heavy lift helicopter, placed its initial order for the CH-53A Sea Stallion in August 1962. At that time, it was the largest helicopter design available in the US. The First S-65 flew on 14 October 1964. The helicopter soon went in production and a number of versions were built, including: CH-53A "Sea Stallion" - first production version for USMC, 139 built; MH-53A - minesweeper, 15 built; CH-53D - more powerful version of CH-53A for USMC, 126 built; MH-53J "Pave Low" - special forces helicopter; CH-53G - CH-53D built under license by VFW in West Germany, 112 built. Navy trials were completed in October 1966 and included 132 day and night LPH carrier landings. HMH-463, MCAF Santa Ana, completed its fleet indoctrination program with the Sea Stallion two weeks later.

The HH-53B "Super Jolly" - transport for USAF with more powerful engines and additional fuel tanks, was first flown on March 16, 1967, 8 built; HH-53C - improved HH-53B with better engines and seating for 44 troops; RH-53A - minesweeper; RH-53D - improved RH-53A with better engines, 20 built; S-65 - built for Israel (25) and Iranian Marines (6); S-65C - passenger helicopter; S-65O - 2 built for Austrian army; CH-53G - 112 built for West Germany; HH-53H - improved HH-53C with all-weather navigation avionics.

The latest version is the US Navy's CH-53E Super Stallion. This much-modified version has three engines (earlier versions had two), and is about 2 meters longer than the CH-53D, with the tail pylon canted to port. The main rotor has also been improved and has seven composite blades (its predecessor had six light alloy ones). The YCH-53E was the three-engine prototype, and the production version CH-53E first flew on 08 December 1975.

The fuselage is rectangular with four narrow windows on either side. The engines are located on either side of the upper fuselage. The main rotor is mounted between the engines. Rear fuselage sweeps up to accomodate a loading ramp. Tail boom is very short with a swept tail fin. A four-blade tail rotor is located on the port side of the fin with a large tailplane on the starboard side. A long fairing, containing main landing gear, is attached to either side of the lower fuselage. Tricycle landing gear is retractable.

From FY-96 through FY-98, a Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) was conducted to develop usage and fatigue life profiles for the H-53E. The resultant SLAP Report will serve to justify commencement of Phase I of the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) which is funded in APN-5. In addition, in FY-98, the program completes a White House requirement to competitively procure, install, test and evaluate an Integrated Mechanical Diagnostic (IMD) system on two Marine Corps CH-53E helicopters as an Early Operational Assessment (EOA). In FY-99 RDT&E, Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) commenced a two year effort on the CH-53D. The Marine Corps Aviation Plan shows the CH-53D remaining in service until 2008. 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 T/MH-53A/J/M helicopter with fleet average of 10,000 flight hours as of 2000 with an average age of 33 years, still, the Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command (HQ AFSOC) weapon system of choice for helicopter operations in support of National Command Authority (NCA) tasking. This weapon system performed admirably in numerous encounters around the globe including Operation Desert Storm, operations in Panama and Kosovo, and in full support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). This platform, a Low Density/High Demand (LD/HD) asset, carries a Force Activity Designator of 1 (One) and a Priority rating of -05 (Zero Five).

Headquarters AFSOC planned and budgeted for a replacement aircraft, the CV-22 Osprey. The projected service life of the MH-53J/M helicopter had been based upon the projected delivery of the CV-22. The pre-retirement fleet size of 45 helicopters consisted of: six TH-53A training aircraft; 25 MH-53M's aircraft, with the Interactive Defensive Avionics System (IDAS)/Multi-mission Advanced Tactical Terminal (MATT) installed; and 14 MH-53J's aircraft, with the Enhanced Navigation System (ENS) installed. The current logistics support plan, developed for the original retirement schedule, was based on the harvesting of components from the retired aircraft to support the remaining operational helicopters. Spares, contract depot repair, organic depot maintenance, engineering, and tech data support budgets were all planned according to the original retirement schedule. The initial retirement schedule projected retirement of the TH/MH-53 to begin in FY01 with the TH-53A's being delivered to Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), the aircraft storage facility.

As of 2002 plans called for the MH-53J/M retirements to take place between FY03 and FY07, with the components harvested from each retired aircraft. The fielding schedule for the CV-22 continued to slip to the right and thereby caused the projected MH-53J/M retirement schedule to be slipped commensurate with the CV-22 deliveries. The last year for MH-53 operational aircraft in the DOD inventory slipped from 2007 to 2009 with the latest retirement date of 2014 provided by Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command Plans, Programs and Policy Directorate (HQ AFSOC/XPP) on 17 April 2002, see Table V-3. This new retirement schedule also meant the first MH-53J/M retirements would not begin until FY 2009, a six-year slip from the original schedule of FY03. These new projections caused a critical need for reassessment of the weapon system health and the requirements to meet to keep the MH-53 a viable and safe platform for accomplishment of National Command Authority (NCA) tasking.



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