The CH-53D Sea Stallion is designed for the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel during the assault phase of an amphibious operation and subsequent operations ashore. Capable of both internal and external transport of supplies, the CH-53D is shipboard compatible and capable of operation in adverse weather conditions both day and night. The CH-53D is now filling a role in the Marine Corps' medium lift helicopter fleet.
The twin-engine helicopter is capable of lifting 7 tons (6.35 metric tons). Improvements to the aircraft include an elastomeric rotor head, external range extension fuel tanks, crashworthy fuel cells, ARC-182 radios, and defensive electronic countermeasure equipment. The helicopter will carry 37 passengers in its normal configuration and 55 passengers with centerline seats installed.
Inventory: Active - 54; Reserve - 18
The CH-53D is a more capable version of the CH-53A introduced into the Marine Corps in 1966. 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-53D has performed its multi-role mission lifting both equipment and personnel in training and combat, most recently in Operation Desert Storm, where the helicopter performed with distinction.
The CH-53E, the Marine Corps' heavy lift helicopter designed for the transportation of material and supplies, is compatible with most amphibious class ships and is carried routinely aboard LHA (Landing, Helicopter, Assault: an amphibious assault ship), LPH (Landing Platform, Helicopter: an amphibious assault ship) and now LHD (Landing, Helicopter, Dock: an amphibious assault ship) type ships. The helicopter is capable of lifting 16 tons (14.5 metric tons) at sea level, transporting the load 50 nautical miles (57.5 miles) and returning. A typical load would be a 16,000 pound (7264 kilogram) M198 howitzer or a 26,000 pound (11,804 kilogram) Light Armored Vehicle. The aircraft also can retrieve downed aircraft including another CH-53E. The 53E is equipped with a refueling probe and can be refueled in flight giving the helicopter indefinite range.
The CH-53E is a follow-on for its predecessor, the CH-53D. Improvements include the addition of a third engine to give the aircraft the ability to lift the majority of the Fleet Marine Force's equipment, a dual point cargo hook system, improved main rotor blades, and composite tail rotor blades. A dual digital automatic flight control system and engine anti-ice system give the aircraft an all-weather capability. The helicopter seats 37 passengers in its normal configuration and has provisions to carry 55 passengers with centerline seats installed. With the dual point hook systems, it can carry external loads at increased airspeeds due to the stability achieved with the dual point system.
Derived from an engineering change proposal to the twin-engine CH-53D helicopter, the CH-53E has consistently proven its worth to the Fleet commanders with its versatility and range. With four and one half hours' endurance, the Super Stallion can move more equipment over rugged terrain in bad weather and at night. During Operation Eastern Exit two CH-53Es launched from amphibious ships and flew 463 nautical miles (532.45 miles) at night, refueling twice enroute, to rescue American and foreign allies from the American Embassy in the civil war-torn capital of Mogadishu, Somalia in January of 1990. Two CH-53Es rescued Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady in Bosnia in June 1995.
From FY 1996 through FY 1997, a Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) was conducted to develop usage and fatigue life profile, and an Integrated Mechanical Diagnostic (IMD) system for the H-53E. FY 1998 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) begins to correct deficiencies in aircraft dynamic components and mission systems. The effort will increase reliability, maintainability, and safety while reducing the cost of ownership. The Marine Corps Aviation Plan shows the CH-53D remaining in service through 2015. 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 results of these efforts will be used to justify APN-5 funding of a SLEP for the CH-53D if warranted. FY 99 funding is also utilized for Phase II of the CH-53E SLEP.