Back Sikorsky S-80 / CH-53E

Sikorsky S-80 / CH-53E

The latest version of the S-65 to be built is the CH-53E Super Stallion for the US Navy. This is a much modified version with three 4380shp General Electric T64-GE-416 engines and strengthened transmission to withstand the increase in power. The fuselage is about 2m longer than that of the CH-53D and the tail pylon is canted to port. The main rotor has also been improved and has seven composite blades (its predecessor had six light alloy ones). Thirty-three CH-53Es were initially ordered by the Marines and 16 by the US Navy. The type is still in production.

G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984

CH-53E "Super Stallion"

Phase I development funding for CH-53E Super Stallion allocated 1973; first flight of first of two prototypes 1 March 1974; first flight of first production prototype 8 December 1975; first flight of second production prototype March 1976; deliveries to US Marine Corps started 16 June 1981. First flight of preproduction MH-53E, 1 September 1983; first delivery to US Navy 26 June 1986; in operational service with HM-14 at Norfolk, Virginia, 1 April 1987; first carrier deployment by HM-15 on board USS Tripoli, 9 December 1989.


CH-53E Super Stallion: Used by US Marine Corps for amphibious assault, carrying heavy equipment and armament, and recovering disabled aircraft; also used by US Navy for vertical onboard delivery and recovery of damaged aircraft from aircraft carriers.

Detailed description refers to CH-53E, but applicable also to MH-53E and S-80 export versions, except where indicated.

Planned improvements for CH-53E include, uprated GE T64-GE-416 engines, Omega navigation system, ground proximity warning system, flight crew night vision system (Elbit ANVIS 7 NVG/HUD systems already fitted), improved internal cargo handling system, missile alerting system, chaff/flare dispensers, nitrogen fuel inerting system, and facility for refilling hydraulic system inside cargo compartment. CH-53E will possibly be equipped with self-defence air-to-air missiles; initial trials of AIM-9 Sidewinder conducted at Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, but no recent developments reported.

Full-scale development of Helicopter Night Vision System (HNVS) for CH-53E began June 1986, in co-operation with Northrop Electro-Mechanical Division; HNVS includes Lockheed Martin Pilot Night Vision System (PNVS) and Honeywell Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS) from Bell AH-1S surrogate trainer; HNVS will allow low-level operations in night and adverse weather; HNVS ground testing began 1988; operational evaluation began August 1989. Smaller-scale capability authorised 1993, with contract to EER Systems for installation of Hughes AN/AAQ-16B FLIR, Teledyne Ryan Electronics AN/APN-217 Doppler and Rockwell Collins GPS 3A; total 24 upgrades initially authorised; subsequent contracts for 99 HNVS with work scheduled for completion in May 1999. USMC has also evaluated engine-suppression system as means of reducing IR signature, and new multiple cargo hook concept.

MH-53E Sea Dragon: Airborne mine countermeasures helicopter able to tow through water hydrofoil sledge carrying mechanical, acoustic and magnetic sensors; nearly 3,785 litres (1,000 US gallons; 833 Imp gallons) extra fuel carried in enlarged sponsons made of composites; improved hydraulic and electrical systems; minefield, navigation and automatic flight control system with automatic towing and approach and departure from hover modes.

Delivery effected 1994 of MH-53E retrofitted with upgraded avionics package by EER Systems, comprising two 15.2 cm (6 in) horizontal situation display colour screens, Fairchild mission data loader and Rockwell Collins GPS 3A; upgrade of entire MH-53E fleet planned but may be reduced to around 30 as result of defence budget trimming. One MH-53E to West Palm Beach, Florida, for installation of T64-GE-419 engines, late 1993. Trials during 1994 verified performance gains, including recovery and flyaway capability in event of engine failure during hover; retrofit of entire MH-53E fleet underway.

S-80E: Export version of CH-53E. None sold to date.

S-80M: Export version of MH-53E; total of 11 delivered to Japan for Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF).

CUSTOMERS: US Navy and Marine Corps and Japan.

COSTS: US$24.36 million (1992) projected average unit cost.

DESIGN FEATURES: Fully articulated seven-blade main rotor; blade twist 14°; hydraulic powered blade folding for main rotor; tail pylon folds hydraulically to starboard; four composite-blades tail rotor on pylon canted 20° to port to derive some lift from tail rotor and extend CG range; cranked, strut braced tailplane; rotor brake standard; fuselage stressed for 20 g vertical and 10 g lateral crash loads.

FLYING CONTROLS: Fully powered, with autostabilisation and autopilot. See also Current Versions and Avionics.

STRUCTURE: Fuselage has watertight primary structure of light alloy, steel and titanium; glass fibre/epoxy cockpit section; extensive use of Kevlar in transmission fairing and engine cowlings; main rotor blades have titanium spar, Nomex honeycomb core and glass fibre/epoxy composites skin; titanium and steel rotor head; Sikorsky Inflight Blade Inspection Method (IBIM) sensors detect blade spar cracks occurring in service; tail rotor of aluminium; pylon and tailplane of Kevlar composites.

LANDING GEAR: Retractable tricycle type, with twin wheels on each unit. Main units retract into rear of sponsons on each side of fuselage. Fully castoring nosewheels.

POWER PLANT: Three General Electric T64-GE-416 turboshafts, each with a maximum rating of 3,266kW for 10 minutes, intermediate rating of 3,091kW for 30 minutes and maximum continuous power rating of 2,756kW. Transmission rated at 10,067kW for take-off. Retrofit underway with 3,539kW T64-GE-419 turboshafts.

Self-sealing bladder fuel cell in forward part of each sponson, each with capacity of 1,192 litres. Additional two-cell unit, with capacity of 1,465 litres, brings total standard internal capacity to 3,849 litres. (Total internal capacity of MH-53E is 12,113 litres)

Optional drop tank outboard of each sponson of CH-53E, total capacity 4,921 litres. (MH-53E can carry seven internal range extension tanks, total capacity 7,949 litres) Forward extendable probe for in-flight refuelling. Alternatively, aircraft can refuel by hoisting hose from surface vessel while hovering.

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of three. Main cabin of CH-53E will accommodate up to 55 troops on folding canvas seats along walls and in centre of cabin or 24 litters. Door on forward starboard side of main cabin. Hydraulically operated rear-loading ramp. Typical freight loads include seven standard 1.02 x 1.22m pallets. Dual and single-point central hooks for slung cargo, capacity 16,330kg.

SYSTEMS: Hydraulic system, with four pumps, for collective, cyclic pitch/roll, yaw and feel augmentation flight control servo mechanisms; engine starters; Engine Air Particle Separators (EAPS); engine and hydraulic oil replenishment in flight; landing gear actuation; cargo winches; loading ramp; and blade and tail pylon folding. System pressure 207 bars, except for engine starter system which is rated at 276 bars. (Separate hydraulic system in MH-53E to power AMCM equipment.) Electrical system includes three 115V 400Hz 40 to 60kVA AC alternators, and two 28V 200A transformer-rectifiers for DC power. Solar APU.

AVIONICS: Flight: Hamilton Standard automatic flight control system, using two digital onboard computers and a four-axis autopilot. Retrofit test flown late 1993, comprising four Canadian Marconi CM A-2082 15.2cm square colour displays, tied with GPS, Doppler and AHRS; installation by Teledyne Ryan.

EQUIPMENT: MH-53E equipment includes Westinghouse AN/AQS-14 towed sonar, AN/AQS-17 mine neutralisation device, AN/ALQ-141 electronic sweep and Edo AN/ALQ-166 towed hydrofoil sled for detonating magnetic mines.

ARMAMENT: Window mount provisions for 7.62mm and 12.7mm weapons.

Jane's Helicopter Markets and Systems


- Overall production of the US Marine Corps and Navy Super Stallions is projected to reach 177 aircraft, MH-53Es about 50.

- The first S-80/CH-53E was a test aircraft and made its first flight on 1 March 1974.

- The H-53 family contains the most powerful helicopters used by US forces.

- The first MH-53E minesweeper, which flew in 1983, was not fitted with large sponsons; deliveries began in 1986.

- The first prototype of this series was tragically lost in a ground mishap.

- A CH-53E can lift 16 tonnes - 6 tonnes more than the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook.

Technical data for CH-53E

Engine: 3 x General Electric T64-GE-416 turboshaft, rated at 3266kW, main rotor diameter: 24.08m, fuselage length: 22.35m, height: 8.66m, take-off weight: 33339kg, empty weight: 15071kg, max speed: 315km/h, range with payload: 2075km

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Caesar, e-mail, 21.05.2021reply

Photo: Mighty rotors: You can see just how big and heavy a helicopter's rotors are in this picture. It takes four US marines to hold this rotor in place while it's being reattached after maintenance. Notice the curved front edge of the rotor blade that cuts like an airfoil as it spins around. Picture by Jeremy L. Grisham courtesy of US Navy .

roberto flores, e-mail, 20.11.2014reply

Hi my name is Roberto, served 20 years in US Navy, I was deployed on USS GUADACANAL from 1992-93 during our deployment we had a CH-53 crashed I believe it was five crew members that lost their lifes, we were on the crew for the H2 SEAPRITE doing search and rescue for that deployment. I would like to find out why that accident happen.

The "Dude", e-mail, 12.08.2010reply

Mark (24 /10 /2009),
The photo you have a question about is "1995" era. From what I see, the picture was taken at 29 Palms, California. Under the aircraft you can see the "whip" antenna, and on top of the transition section, just below the visible portion of the tail rotor blades, you can see the shark fin antenna, indicating the aircraft is equipped with the ARC-182 radio system. On the other side of the aircraft, opposite of the aerial refuel probe, there is no arm protruding forward of the aircraft nose. This indicates the aircraft hasnt had the Forward Looking Inferred System (FLIR) installed. Most of the time there is a Ball at the end of the arm, called the Ball Turret. Crazy thing, I too have flown on aircraft 53, in Iraq and at MCAS Miramar.
Have no fear for your son, The CH-53E is the B-17 of helicopters, and they always bring their aircrews home.

Brett Pryor, e-mail, 16.08.2010reply

Lost Brother 1992, LT. Grady Pryor, Cecil N.A.S. Crashed Feb 8,1992, No info on net. Never really knew what caused the crash, but would still like to know,R.S.V.P. thankx

Joyce Milo, e-mail, 30.08.2010reply

We were doing a CAX in 1986 (April) and had a CH56-E crash while it was doing its maneuvers with 3-4 other CH56-E. It was the lowest one out of the group, so it got, "pushed", by the rest of the other helicopters to the ground. There was only ONE surviver. I was a Fire Fighter for the Marine Corp. and stationed in Hawaii.

AIRDALE, e-mail, 22.10.2010reply


I was a helicopter mechanic on the same CAX in 1986 & was present the day the aircraft crashed. It wasn't an "E" model though, I believe it was a "D". ( The E's weren't fielded until a couple years later.) What you saw raining down wasn't asbestos either; it was an aluminum honeycomb material used in portions of the acft to make it lighter. ( Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of toxic stuff in the air that day but helicopter rotor blades don't have asbestos in them.) I remember it looking like tinsel sparkling in the sun on it's way down... The only survivor was the co-pilot. Somehow he came "Walking" out of a wall of flame. His helmet was gone, his hair singed, eyebrows gone, & his left femur was broken! Unbelievable. Unfortunately 3 other Marines died. I remember the only PAX on board was an 18 yr old LCPL from a CH-46 unit. It was his 18th birthday. He was on guard duty at the time & his own unit refused to take him up because they said it was too dangerous. One of his friends on guard duty was from the CH-53 squadron & he arranged the B-Day flight. I remember standing behind him the night before at the pay phone as he told his parents about it; he was real excited.

Anne Tally, e-mail, 13.11.2010reply

To Brett Pryor,
I knew Grady and thought he was a great guy. My husband was in HMH461 when Grady died, they also went to flight school together. I don't know if he has any info but know that he would be happy to talk with you.
I think of he Ragin' Cajun often. My best to you and your family,

John, e-mail, 10.12.2010reply

The CH-53E that crashed within minutes of take off from Ceisel Field Fla in '92 was caused by an undetected crack in one of the seven main rotor sleeve and spindles. The cracked developed over many hours and then finally reached the point where the entire spindle, with main rotor blade attached, departed from the aircraft. Post mishap investigation revealed the source and a NDI inspection was then developed and required for every 50 hours of flight. No crach or mishap has occured since because of improved manufacturing techniques and the recurring NDI inspection.

Michael Koronka, e-mail, 14.12.2010reply

I flew in squadrons 362, 204, 461, and 464 in New River MCAS from 1982 to 1987 and 1989 and was also a test cell operator for the engines. I had only 3 close calls and was able to direct the pilot on the most serious situation and we were able to land safley at the base. The 53 has had problems but most were due to allowing guys with low aptitude to work on these machines. I was a troubleshooter for all of these squadrons and the things a would encounter were scarey. I have about 1200 hours in 53's and if maintained properly these are very reliable and safe aircraft. It is painful when we lose a Marine's life as well as others. Sikorsky has done a great job with the 53 and is by far the best heavy lift out there when you add up the performance and maintenance cost. I was a Marine from 1981 to 1989. I also got to travel around to other 53 squadrons and troubleshoot their tough problems. I worked on OV-10 engines, C-130 engines, Harrier engines, A-6 engines,ch-46 and ch-53 engines as well as huey's and cobras. I was fortunate enough to get a ride in a cobra, That was a real treat.

Scott Vejsicky, e-mail, 18.02.2011reply

Grady was a very dear friend of mine at TBS and at Flight School. I had the honor of being at his funeral as well as learning how to party like a Ragin Cajun! I'm now 45 and still think back on those great times with Grady and all our Marine Brothers. Semper Fi, Grady!

Roddy Scott, e-mail, 23.02.2011reply

Would any existing or former marines of HMH466 be able to assist me in the building of a scale CH 53E rc helicopter?
I would like to obtain some detailed photographs of the landing gear and the fuselagefold mechanism, these are few and far between on the WWW and any would be much appreciated.

Doug Durham, e-mail, 29.04.2011reply

I was a flight line mechanic with HMH-465 based at MCAS Tustin, CA from June of 1983 to September of 1986. HMH-465 was the first CH-53E squadron to stand up in the 3RD MAW. When I first got to the squadron we only had 12 aircraft as I recall. The last four aircraft were delivered shortly there after. During my time with HMH-465 we lost (3) of the original (16) CH-53E helicopters to mishaps. The first helicopter was lost conducting sling exercises of large trucks of the deck of a ship. The second mishap was as described by AIRDALE in his post. We lost our third helicopter in a test hover out side of the Hanger on MCAS Tustin. Luckily, everyone survived the third crash although most of the helicopter was a loss. I spent the last couple months of my enlistment pulling parts from that crashed airframe for inspection and possible rework by Sikorsky. Shortly after my enlistment was up I got word that another one of the original CH-53E aircraft was lost in a mountain top crash.

I can't even begin to count the number of close encounter events we experienced as HMH-465 trained pilots and crews for fleet missions. Almost every major system in the aircraft experienced failures and required upgrades as the mission capibility expanded. A lot of blood, sweat, and ultimately loss of life occurred in the early fleet develpement of this model.

I remember the helicopter like the back of my hand and sadly miss working and aircrewing on those aircraft. I keep the passion alive by building and flying remote control helicopters.

Semper Fi

Ian, e-mail, 13.09.2011reply

Did the CH53 have a bit of a bad reputation. I was involved in an airmobile exercise in Denmark during '95. We were deploying from a Luftwaffe bird & some of the older sweats were grumbling a bit about having to fly in it. The one thing I did notice was they left a great big sooty exhaust trail like the engines were burning oil.

Ralph, e-mail, 16.11.2011reply

Brett Pryor...please contact me.

Joyce, e-mail, 09.12.2011reply

Airdale, sorry it has taken so long to get back on here, but I finally found the info I was looking for to post for you. I know it is a CH-53E, since I got a Certificate of Commendation for the crash, but just telling you that, wont make you a believer, so here is part of an article:

The co-pilot, 1st Lt. Andrew D. McClintock, 24, of Alexandria, Va., is in good condition at the Marine branch hospital at Twentynine Palms, said Lt. Tim Hoyle, public affairs officer at the Tustin air station.

The accident, which occurred during training exercises, involved a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from the Tustin base. It was the fifth crash in the nation in the past two years of a Super Stallion.

Col. David Shuter, a commander at the base, ordered helicopters there grounded but indicated that the "temporary suspension of operations would be short-term," Hoyle said.

Fernando Dilabio, e-mail, 18.10.2012reply

Please identify the company that supplied the Tow Cable Assy, (Single Winch II)for the MH-53E

Harlen, e-mail, 15.07.2010reply

I was a crew chief in the 70's and 80's on 53 A's and D's. I loved them!!!!! I was in HMH 462, HMH 363, HMT 301 and lastly HMX 1. All my time spent on 53 A and D models. Wish I still worked and flew them!

Mark Prather, e-mail, 20.07.2010reply

I flew in CH53E in 88-93 I was in squadern. 466,361 and 462 i flew in aircraftnumbers 14,53,55, and 20. All on the west coast. I loved those helicopters.

Joyce, e-mail, 28.04.2010reply

Is asbestos still being used in the wings of this aircraft, or have they found a healthier way to hold the inside together, better? I was told that you could see the asbestos floating around the crash site, but no one payed any attention to it because they were too busy trying to put the fire out and tend to ANY survivers, or get to the survivors inside the aircraft. By the time they realized they had been breathing in the asbestos, which was probably about, 24HRS, they were too tired to care, and they really didn't know what it was. It just looked like glitter floating in the air.

SCOTT, e-mail, 16.04.2010reply

I was a Marine hydraulics mech on the super stallion back in 1985 at New River MCAS. It was an awsome aircraft then and its even more awsome now. Ooo Raaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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