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MH-53 Pave Low


MH-53 Pave Low
A MH-53J Pave Low IIIE of the 551st Special Operations Squadron, 58th Special Operations Wing, during a training mission.
A MH-53J Pave Low IIIE of the 551st Special Operations Squadron, 58th Special Operations Wing, during a training mission.


Overview
Role Heavy-lift helicopter
Manufacturer : Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
First flight : 15 March 1967
Retired: 30 September 2008
Status : retired
Primary users : United States Air Force
Produced : 1967-1970
Number built : 72
Unit cost : US$ 40 million
Developed from : Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion


MH-53M In Iraq Summer 2004
MH-53M In Iraq Summer 2004


MH-53 flying over the Grand Bara desert in Djibouti, Africa
MH-53 flying over the Grand Bara desert in Djibouti, Africa




The Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low series is a long-range combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter developed by The Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for the United States Air Force. The helicopter was developed from the HH-53B/C variants of the the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion. The HH-53 “Super Jolly Green Giant” was meant to be the successor of the HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant”. The MH-53 is also used for Special Operations missions. In September 2008 the U.S. Air Force retired the MH-53J/M and was replaced by the CV-22B Osprey



Development and design


The HH-53B and the HH-53C variants were ordered by the US Air Force for Search and Rescue units while the MH53J Pave Low was orderd for Special Operations missions

The key aspects in the Pave Low’s mission is the ability to fly low for long distances, to penetrate denied areas during day or night, in adverse weather in order to allow infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces. Generally the MH-53 Pave Low operates in conjunction with MC-130H Combat Talon for navigation, communication and combat support, and with MC-130P Combat Shadow for in-flight refueling.

HH-53B


Known under the nickname “Super Jolly Green Giant” the HH-53B was intended for Search and Rescue operations. The nickname was a reference to the HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant”, a stretched version of the H-3 Sea King, widely used in the Vietnam War for CSAR operations. The United States Air Force regarded favorably these Sikorsky S-61R/HH-3E “Jolly Green Giants” for their long range combat search and rescue CSAR capabilities and was interested in acquiring the more capable S-65/CH-53A. So in 1966 the USAF awarded the contract to Sikorsky to develop and build a CSAR version of the CH-53A. This helicopter was designated HH-53B.

Among the key features of the HH-53B are:
  • Spindle-shaped jettisonable external fuel tanks having a capacity of 650 US gallons (2461 L). These were fitted to the sponsons and braced by struts attached to the fuselage of the helicopter.
  • A rescue hoist above the right side passenger door, capable of deploying a Forest penetrator on a 250 feet (76m) steel cable
  • Retractable in-flight refueling probe located on the right side of the nose
  • 1200 pounds (540 kg) of armor
  • Doppler navigation radar in the forward belly
  • Three pintle-mounted General Electric GAU-2/A 7.62 mm six-barreled Gatling-type machine guns. One was mounted in a forward hatch on each side of the fuselage and another one on the tail ramp, with the gunner secured with a harness.

Initially the HH-53Bs was equipped with T64-GE-3 turboshafts with 3,080 shaft horsepower (2,297 kW) each, later these engines were upgraded to T64-GE-7 turboshafts with 3,925 shaft horsepower (2,927 kW).

The helicopters operated with a crew of five, including a pilot, copilot, a crew chief and two pararescuemen.

HH-53C

HH/MH-53H

MH-53J/M


Technology


Operational Service


Variants


  • TH-53A - a training version used by US Air Force (USAF)
  • HH-53B - CH-53A type for USAF search and rescue (SAR)
  • CH-53C - heavy-lift version for USAF, 22 built
  • HH-53C - “Super Jolly Green Giant”, improved HH-53B for USAF
  • S-65C-2 (S-65o) - export version for Austria, later to Israel
  • S-65-C3 - export version for Israel
  • YHH-53H - prototype Pave Low I aircraft
  • HH-53H - Pave Low II night infiltrator
  • MH-53H - redesignation of HH-53H
  • MH-53J - “Pave Low III” - a special operations conversion of HH-53B, HH-53C, and HH-53H.
  • MH-53M - “Pave Low IV” further upgraded MH-53Js

For other H-53 variants, see CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-53E Super Stallion.


Accidents


Specifications



MH-53 of the  20th Special Operations Squadron flying over Hurlburt Field, Fla,
MH-53 of the 20th Special Operations Squadron flying over Hurlburt Field, Fla,



Similar helicopters


CH-53 Sea Stallion
CH-53E Super Stallion
HH-3E Jolly Green Giant
Boeing MH-47 Chinook


Further reading


More info on helicopters: Helicopters
More info on Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
List of active military aircraft of the United States








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