CH-53 Helicopter

YouTube – CH-53 Helicopter

CH-53 Helicopter Specifications
Primary Function:
2019 US$ Cost
Flight Cost
Rotor Diameter:
Weight Empty:
Max. Weight:
Cruise Speed:
Max. Speed:
Climb Rate:
First Flight:
heavy lift
$42.7 million (est.)
3- 4,380 shp ea.
73 ft. 4 in.
27 ft. 9 in.
79 ft.
55 troops
32,000 lbs.
33,226 lbs.
73,500 lbs.
173 mph
196 mph
2,500 fpm
18,500 feet
690 miles

Flying the CH-53 helicopter

Flying the CH-53 Helicopter

“To best describe what flying the CH-53 helicopter is like, I first must say “smooth”. The rotor system, when all blades are adjusted to keep the same “tip path plane”, gives a very smooth flight, unlike other rotor systems that have a characteristic “lope” or vibration. For the size of the aircraft, control response is excellent, even at slow speeds.

The “A” models with less powerful engines made you watch the loads and density altitudes you were operating in a little closer. The “D” (and Super ‘A’) models with their more powerful engines, characterized by a trail of dark smoke from the tailpipe in flight, were very capable.

Hovering in the CH-53 helicopter always seemed easier than in smaller helicopters and once you have the “picture” of its nose-high hover attitude, a smooth stick action with small corrections gives great control.

Things you “had to watch out for” list with the CH-53 helicopter was probably topped by the diameter of the main rotors, keeping them away from ship’s antennas or superstructure when landing and keeping plenty of safety factor in your distances between aircraft during formation flying.”  – James C. “Smokey” Robinson, Captain, USMCR (June 1971 – December 1976) – We want to thank Capt. Robinson for his service to our country and his description of flying the CH-53 helicopter.

The CH-53 helicopter from Sikorsky is the largest United States helicopter currently deployed. The U.S.M.C. calls it the Super Stallion and the U.S. Navy calls it the Sea Dragon.

It is used primarily as a heavy lift vehicle, although the U.S. Navy uses a version of the helicopter as a mine sweeper, as shown in the picture above. It is the only ship deployed heavy lift, long range helicopter currently deployed.

The Israeli Air Force has been operating the CH-53 helicopter for years. Constant upgrades and improvements will keep it operational with the IAF for at least another five years.

Recently CH-53 helicopters played a role in Afghanistan, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They were also instrumental in transporting U.S. Marine troops during the U.S. invasion of Grenada. The helicopters were used extensively after 1967 during the Vietnam War, often operating under fire.

In 1958 the concept of the CH-53 heavy lift helicopter was proposed. By November of 1958 an official order was issued to replace the HR2S helicopter.

In January of 1961 the U.S.A.F., U.S. Navy and U.S. Army agreed to jointly develop a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle. By August of 1961 the U.S. Navy withdrew from the agreement.

In March of 1962 a R.F.Q. was issued to manufacturers for the helicopter. By May of 1962 both Sikorsky and Vertol responded. In August of 1962 Sikorsky beat out Vertol for the CH-53 helicopter.

The first prototype Sikorsky CH-53  helicopter took to the sky on October 14, 1964. Deliveries began in September of 1966.

To facilitate the movement of cargo, the inside deck of the CH-53 helicopter is equipped with rollers. Its engine intakes are equipped with filters for dusty landing zones. Exhausts use infra-red suppression as a defense against enemy missiles. The rotor blades and tail boom can be folded for storage or transport. The latest CH-53 avionics include FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) and ground tracking radar. The range of the helicopter can be extended with the addition of two external 450 gallon fuel tanks.

Versions of the CH-53 helicopter have been used by the U.S.M.C. as an assault ship, by Germany as a heavy transport, and by the U.S.A.F. for search and rescue.

After the United States, Germany is the next biggest user of CH-53 helicopters. They are built there under license.

The latest version of the helicopter currently undergoing testing, the CH-53 model K, known as the King Stallion, is powered by three 7,500 shp engines and should have a maximum payload at sea level of 36,000 lbs.  The USMC anticipates ordering 200 model K helicopters, replacing older models.  Unit cost is estimated at US$87 million each and US$105 million each including spare parts and service contracts.  Total program cost is anticipated to be around US$27 billion.  It is anticipated that the new helicopters will have double the reliability of models currently in use.

To date CH-53 model K helicopters have undergone gunfire testing, inclined ground landings and takeoffs up to a 12 degree slope, high temperature and high altitude testing up to 18,500 feet, banked turns in both directions with up a 60 degrees of tilt, the ability to carry single point sling loads up to 36,000 lbs., forward speed testing to over 230 mph., plus the testing of operating in low visibility environments.

In May of 2019 Sikorsky received a US$1.1 billion contract for twelve CH-53 model K helicopters including “programmatic support, logistics support and peculiar support equipment”.  Deliveries are expected to commence in 2022 and be completed by December of 2023.

Aug. 20, 2019: The U.S. Navy awarded Sikorsky US$107.3 million covering “long-lead items needed to manufacture its fourth batch of six CH-53 model K helicopters for use by the U.S. Marine Corps”.

Aug. 22, 2019: Sikorsky was awarded US$48.3 million for the procurement of spare parts for the maintenance and repair of low rate initial production CH-53 model K helicopters. Expected completion is by Aug. 2024.

Sept. 6, 2019:  General Electric Aviation was awarded US$143.7 million for 27 turboshaft engines for CH-53 model K helicopters.  Deliveries are expected to be completed by December of 2022.

Dec. 17, 2019:  The U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center awarded DMR Consulting, Florida US$8,991,202 for depot level repair and maintenance of the MK105 Magnetic Minesweeping Gear.  The MK105 is towed behind the CH-53 helicopter to sweep magnetic influence mines.  Completion should be by December of 2020.

Feb. 10, 2020: The U.S. Department of Defense continues to site design flaws with the CH-53 helicopter model K after more than 1,500 hours of testing.

The Navy termed as “hot gas impingement” on the helicopter’s surface and “low reliability” of the main rotor gearbox, which is designed to stay operational up to 30 minutes with any loss of oil. The engine compartment experiences overheating, while “structural problems” are present with the rotors and tail boom.

Thus far, over 100 noted design flaws have been corrected by Sikorsky. However, some 24 remained at the time of the Pentagon’s update on the program.

Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky’s parent company, issued the following statement: “The CH-53K helicopter program continues to mature with flight test progress occurring in parallel with aircraft production. We are flying and testing aircraft today … and continue to successfully execute key performance and test events that validate capabilities.”

Feb. 20, 2020:  The Naval Surface Warfare Center awarded Sikorsky US$$40,029,200 to procure “organic capability pilot repair material, technical publications, peculiar support equipment re-design and acquisition and logistical support in support of lot 2 CH-53 helicopter model K aircraft”.  Work should be finished in December  of 2024.

Feb. 21, 2020:  The Naval Surface Warfare Center awarded Sikorsky US$11,967,528 to “provide non-recurring engineering to replace existing subsystems, such as the Data Transfer Unit, Defense Electronic Countermeasure System and ARC-210 radio, with the CH-53 helicopter model K”.  Non-recurring engineering efforts include investigation, systems engineering support, risk analysis, integration development, weight impact, publication updates including maintenance, training, update tooling and qualification testing.  Work should be finished by August of 2021.

March 17, 2020:  The Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded Raytheon US$9,312,000 “for electronic modules for the CH-53 helicopter”.  Work is to be completed by March 7, 2022.

April 9, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded GE Aviation US$9,696,091 for “non-recurring engineering for the phase two assembly planning effort for the re-start of T-64 engine core production in support of the CH-53 helicopter Engine Reliability Improvement Program”.  Work should be finished by December 2021. 

CH-53 - Vario

RC CH-53 Helicopter

Vario’s RC CH-53 fuselage kit is for turbine power. It consists of 16 pieces and includes retractable landing gear. Length is 80 in., width is 18 in., and height is 21 in.  It uses a 79 in. rotor and weighs around 40 lbs. upon completion.

The RC CH-53 fuselage kit from Darth’s Heli Bodies is for 450 size mechanics.

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