The CH-53E Super Stallion is the Marine Corps’ primary heavy lift helicopter and has been in service for over 30 years.
There are currently 152 CH-53E aircraft in operation. The Super Stallion incorporates GPS, doppler radar, FLIR, and ANVIS-HUD sensors, and carries 7.62mm and 50 caliber guns (as a mission kit). Communications include UHF/VHF/HF radios, secure comm. capability, and IFF. Currently out of production. Requirement exists to operate the CH-53E through 2025, necessitating a Service Life Extension Program.
The heavy-lift helicopter of the Marine Corps can carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough combat-loaded Marines to lead an assault or humanitarian operation. Though powerful enough to lift every aircraft in the Marine inventory except the KC-130, the CH-53E Super Stallion is compact enough to deploy on amphibious assault ships, and has the armament, speed and agility to qualify as much more than a heavy lifter.
Armed with window-mounted .50-caliber machine guns, chaff and flare dispensers for anti-air defense, an in-flight refueling probe for limitless range and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imager for night and all-weather navigation, the Marine CH-53E is commonly called on for assault transport of Marine ground forces. Though long-range insertion missions are standard protocol for this Marine workhorse, it is the rapid resupply of Marines at the forefront that makes the Super Stallion one of the most used aircraft in Marine Aviation.
The Navy requested a version of the CH-53E for the airborne mine countermeasures role, designated "MH-53E Sea Dragon". It has enlarged sponsons to provide substantially greater fuel storage and endurance. It also retained the in-flight refueling probe, and could be fitted with up to seven 300 US gallon (1,136 liter) ferry tanks internally. The MH-53E digital flight-control system includes features specifically designed to help tow minesweeping gear.
The prototype MH-53E made its first flight on 23 December 1981. MH-53E was used by the Navy beginning in 1986. The MH-53E is capable of in-flight refueling and can be refueled at hover. The Navy obtained a total of 46 Sea Dragons and is converting the remaining RH-53Ds back to the transport role.