MH-53E Sea Dragon
The MH-53E Sea Dragon is the U.S. Navy’s primary aerial mine countermeasures aircraft. A variant of the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the MH-53E is heavier and has a greater fuel capacity than its ancestor. The MH-53 can operate from carriers and other warships and is capable of towing a variety of mine hunting/sweeping countermeasures systems, including the Mk 105 magnetic minesweeping sled, the AQS-14A side-scan sonar, and the Mk 103 mechanical minesweeping system. When performing the assault support mission, the MH-53E can be fitted with the GAU-21 .50-cal. machine gun ramp-mounted weapon system.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon incorporates GPS, Doppler radar, Approach/Hover/Tow Coupler, and carries no weapons. UHF/VHF/HF radios, secure comm. capability, IFF. Communications include UHF/VHF/HF radios, secure comm. capability, and IFF. Currently out of production, the MH-53E’s service life issues are under study. The MH-53E Sea Dragon will perform the AMCM mission until at least 2017. The Navy is in the process of evaluating it’s requirement for both AMCM and Heavy Lift Vertical Onboard Delivery beyond 2017. Decisions are expected in late 2009.