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Sikorsky NCH-53A Sea Stallion

Sikorsky NCH-53A Sea Stallion
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The CH-53A Sea Stallion was ordered in August 1962 for service with the US Marine Corps (USMC). At the time of its development, it was the largest helicopter designed by the Sikorsky company. The helicopter’s primary mission was cargo transport. It could haul cargo internally, and externally with a hook. Among the items the Marine Corps specification required to be carried were a 1 ½-ton truck and trailer, the Hawk missile system, an Honest John missile on its trailer, and a 105mm howitzer or a ½-ton jeep with a ½-ton two-wheeled trailer. The helicopter’s secondary mission was as a troop transport and casualty evacuation. It could hold 28 combat–equipped troops or 29 stretchers.

The first CH-53A flight took place October 14, 1964 and deliveries began in mid-1966. Deployments to Vietnam began in January 1967.  At the end of 1968, production switched to the CH-53D versions. Production of the Sea Stallion for the USMC ended in January 1972. The even larger CH-53E Super Stallion replaced the Sea Stallion.

In 1971 the US Navy borrowed 15 CH-53As from the Marines to equip its first Helicopter Mine Countermeasures (minesweeping) Squadron. These and follow-on helicopters were designated RH-53A and RH-53D.

US Air Force versions of the CH-53 included the HH-53B, HH-53C and CH-53C Combat Search and Rescue helicopters. Ordered in September 1966, the first flight of the HH-53B Stallion took place in March 1967. By the end of the year the helicopters were in Vietnam, where they became known as the Super Jolly Green Giant. Later versions include the MH-53J and MH-53M Pave Low that have flown in the Gulf wars. These are low-range, low-level, all weather penetration helicopters flown in support of Special Operations Forces.

CAM’s NCH-53A was accepted into service March 1, 1966 and saw a variety of assignments. It flewwith the US Navy, US Marine Corps, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and back to the Navy to end its service. While with NASA, alterations and modifications were made to the helicopter such that it could not be returned to its original mission capability. That is why it carries the prefix N for permanent special test in its designator NCH-53A.

Our records do not show what year 153299 ended its service. It was last painted at the Naval Air Depot, Pensacola, Florida in November 1988. Under the paint, on the right side sponson, a decal/logo with NADC is visible. Our records show the helicopter’s last assignment being with the Naval Air Development Center, Research Development, Test and Evaluation, Warminister, Pennsylvania. The helicopter was recovered from Naval Air Engineering Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, in July 1999, where it had been stored in a World War II blimp hangar.

This helicopter is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.


June 1966
Naval Air Test Center – Service Tests, Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, (Lexington Park) Maryland
June 1967
Naval Plant Representative Officer (NPRO), Research and Technology, Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation, Stratford, Connecticut
July 1967
NATC – Service Tests, NAS Patuxent River
July 1968 
US Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron HMH 461, “Sea Stallions,” Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, (Jacksonville) North Carolina
July 1968
US Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron HMH 361, “Flying Tigers,” MCAS New River, NC
February 1969
HMH 361, MCAS Santa Ana, California
July 1969 
HMH 461, MCAS New River, NC
June 1971
Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment (MARTD), NAS Willow Grove, (Willow Grove/Horsham) Pennsylvania
February 1973
NPRO Sikorsky Aircraft, Stratford, CT
July 1973
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia as 543
December 1975
Modified to NCH-53A with NASA
May 1978
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Atlantic City, New Jersey
May 1981
FAA, Washington, D.C.
October 1983
Naval Air Rework Facility, NAS Pensacola, Florida
June 1984
Naval Air Development Center, Research Development, Test and Evaluation, Warminister, Pennsylvania
November 1988
Naval Air Depot, Pensacola, FL
Naval Air Engineering Station (NAES), Lakehurst, New Jersey
July 1999
Combat Air Museum

Primary Use:
Twin-turbine, assault transport helicopter
Two pilots and a crew chief
Normally, two 2,850 shp (2,125kW) each General Electric T64-GE-6 turboshaft engines
Maximum speed:
189 mph (304km/hr)
Cruising speed:
105mph (169km/hr)
Service ceiling:
20,400 feet (6,220m)
Max Speed:
196 mph (315 kph)
257 miles (413km)
Main Rotor Diameter:
72 ft 3 in (22.02m)   
Tail rotor diameter:
16 ft (4.88m)
Length of Fuselage:
67 ft 2 in (20.47m) 
Length overall:
88 ft 3 in (26.9m)
Height (to top of rotor hub):
17 ft 1 in (5.22m)
Height overall:
24 ft 11 in (7.6m)
Empty 22,444 lbs (10,180kg)
34,958 lbs (15,857kg)
Max gross:
42,000 lb. (19,051kg)
Serial number:
USNavy BuNo. 152399
Sikorsky NCH-53A Sea Stallion
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