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H-53 Reference photos for 2020!!

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Forum Friends, 


I have taken the last few days, week to comb through all of the great resources here on this forum.  As some of you may know I am sorta a "fan" of the Sikorsky H-53.  I worked on her, flew her, tested her from 1985 - 2018.  I also have been working on a project of trying to get a photo of each BuNo delivered to the USMC and USN.  I have a complete listing of all of the H-53 contracts and subsequent serial numbers assigned by the factory since contract award in 1965.  This includes United States contracts for: USAF, USN, USMC.  Also includes Foreign Military Sales, either direct sale or military transfer to: Austria, Germany, Iranian Navy, Israeli Defense Force, Japan, and Mexico.  it is  fairly large excel spreadsheet I have been working on since 1999.


So I saw on a couple of the older forums posts requests for certain H-53 pics of I would say "one - offs" or "oddity" , "rarer" pictures of 53's.  I have some pictures to share of my inventory for those who are interested.  This is just a few of the 11,000 images I have collected both in my USMC career and since I have been retired.  So some people have a life, and I, well I study the development and fielding of this great helicopter.  After 7,200 hours of flying in her, she always brought me home in one piece. (Mostly)


I will start with the early aircraft, SAC YCH-53A, YCH-53E, Test A/C, PAX River, HMX-1 OT&E , HMX-1 Presidential side, colorful H-53's, interesting mission 53's ( i.e. externals, Desert -1, etc.)


Hope you enjoy, and if you can shed light on any of the pictures I post please do not hesitate to help me out, there are a lot of smart folks on this forum.





YCH-53E "Whaletail"




First Operational CH-53A to be delivered:



HMX-1 Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) performing testing on CH-53A No 1.



HMX-1 OT&E for the first "Fleet Ready" CH-53E



HMX-1 Presidential Odd CH-53C as it was the only "whitetop" VH-53, the true VH-53D's were all gloss green, concept art as well:








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More interesting pictures:


Sikorsky S-65A c/n 65-026 ff?, accepted USMC as CH-53A 152399 Jun66
xfer NATC, Patuxent River, MD Jun66 for Follow On Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) , xfer NPRO, R&T, Stratford, CT Jun67, xfer back to NATC, Patuxent River, MD Jul67
xfer to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) HMH-461 Jul68, xfer HMH 361 Jul68 Santa Ana, CA Feb69, xfer HMH-461 Jul69 xfer MARTD (4th MAW Reserves) Willow Grove, PA Jun71, xfer NPRO, Stratford, CT Feb73, xfer NASA, LRC as 543 Jul73, redesig NCH-53A Dec75, xfer FAA, Atlantic City, NJ as N39 May78, xfer FAA Wash DC May81
xfer NARF, NAS Pensacola, FL as NCH-53A 152399 Oct83, inducted back into the Navy inventory and used for various systems testing, xfer NADC, RDT&E, Warminster, PA Jun84,, xfer NADEP Pensacola, Fl Nov88 for storage and re-work., xfer Naval Air Engineeringg Station (NAES), Lakehurst, NJ 
xfer National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, FL date unknown, now loaned to Combat Air Museum, Forbes Field, Topeka, KS Jul99







As far I have researched, this was the same aircraft.  Transferred to NASA, then to the FAA. Then back to the Navy as a test platform to Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) BuNo 152399






Edited by YF65_CH53E
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More pictures.  this time of the CH-53A "RAVE" aircraft test bed. RAVE was "Research Aircraft for Visual Environment"  It was an early test bed for many different technologies, terrain flying RADAR, LLL television, and remotely piloted aircraft.  This CH-53A was equipped with (3) large TV screens in the back of the helicopter, with a "3rd" set of flight controls and operators would "fly" the helicopter from the TV images.  There of course were two safety pilots in the cockpit of the CH-53A, but they successfully "flew" the helicopter first during "tethered" flight at NAS PAX River, then they took her up into the West VA mountains and flew that terrain during the day as well as night!!  Crew of seven, helmet mounted cameras, doppler hover etc. What a program for the early 70's!!










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Another interesting shoot at NAS Pax river.  Looks to be (3) H-53's, all with differing rotor blades!!  Early CH-53A blades, early CH-53D blades (eventually went on the CH-53E with extenders), and finally the rear right aircraft looks to "prototype"  H-60 style blades.....swept tips....never the less very cool pics......is that center aircraft sporting a "BENT" tail pylon??



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A few pictures of the more interesting external missions the 53 has performed over the years:
















Just a couple of interesting lifts, over the years 53's as well as CH-47's and CH-54's have lifted a myriad of "weird" things.





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Have long been a fan of the H-53 family - was able to crawl all over a 67th ARRS HH-53C during an organised visit to RAF Woodbridge in the mid-80s, and got some walkaround shots...

....in early 1989, during a two-week tour around various bases in Florida, I ended up wandering freely around the NADEP flightline courtesy of a USMC Major who test-flew CH-53s there. Wrote an article for Scale Models magazine (July '89 issue) about my visit and the then 'new' three-tone land camouflage scheme that was being applied to the aircraft - payment for which covered the cost of my air fare for the trip!


Regarding the 'white top' H-53, I posted about that particular aircraft a couple of years ago

You asked about the thing on the right-hand sponson of the USAF HH-53C; that's a 67th ARRS bird, and a pair were fitted to 8284 during the Woodbridge visit. I asked about them, but didn't get a straight answer - they appeared to be rudimentary devices to defend against heat-seeking missiles. I'll scan and post a couple of my photos...


And to add to your lifting photos, another Woodbridge-based bird about to haul a derelict Lightning:



Edited by andyf117
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As promised above, some photos of the pylon-mounted 'defensive aids' on HH-53C 8284 - note also the 'one-piece' fin to the fuel tank:






A few shots from the NADEP Pensacola flightline - first up, a Marines CH-53D with what appears to be an exhaust suppression fit:





Nothing particularly unusual about this CH-53A, except it's in Navy, not Marines finish - but note the engine nacelle rear and angled exhaust:




And nothing unusual about this Delta, it's simply the aircraft that my host for the visit took for a test flight while I wandered around the flightline:




On my way out of the facility, I passed these two engineless A models, which I'd been told were assigned to be converted to TH-53As for the Air Force:



Edited by andyf117
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Great pictures and information.   First the (2) CH-53A's in the last shots.....I flew those there!!!!!!!  OH MY GOSH, They were in HMT-301/302, 151698, UT-03 I believe, I remember when the USAF guys and their civilians from Warner Robbins came to MCAS Tustin to pick some Alphas that were destined for the boneyard at Davis Mothan AFB in Tucson AZ.  We flew them down to NADEP P-cola for the conversion to TH-53A's.  We also took (4) CH-53As and one CH-53D to NAS Norfolk from HMT-302, for transfer to Israel. (IDF)  Small world mate!!


USAF 53's above.  Yes I had heard from a couple of PAVE LOW flight engineers I know from the 20th SOS out of Eglin, that those were an IRCM POD installed on the bat wings.  They were not around long, or they were for a very specific threat.  The aux tanks that the early HH-53C's had were repurposed fixed wing drop tanks I am told.  So the fins on that particular 53 are interesting.  The USAF 53's played with aux tanks before the Marines did for sure, especially for their CSAR mission in SEA and beyond.  They needed the AR probe, as well as the aux tanks, the weights they flew at ate a lot of fuel for sure!!  (2) thirsty T64's.


I see from your post also above some info on the VH-53D's form HMX-1.  A couple of Marines responded to that post, and I am sure when they were there, way before me, they saw what they saw.  Which is great they confirmed that only (one) VH-53D was a white top.  The first VH-53D, I am told by SAC, as well as HMX-1 historian at Quantico VA was actually a delivered USAF HH-53C, that was painted in the "white-top" scheme and delivered to HMX for testing of the viability of H-53's in their mission.  This is included White House landings......if you've been around or seen a video of a H-53 you know if has a hell of a lot of rotor wash.....needless to say she was not welcome at the White House lawn.  However the "Green Side" mission the H-53, as well as H-46's fit in nicely.  So there were a total of (6) VH-53D's in all glossy green with HMX-1 markings delivered to Quantico. At any one time (4) were present up there at least in the 80's, (2 could be at depot) and onto their retirement and replacement by VH-53E's.. Which now the VH-53E's have been replaced by MV-22B's, and the VH-53E's have been returned to the fleet  Also up until the establishment of VMX-22 in 2003, now VMX-1 (2016) in MCAS New River,  HMX-1 did operational test and evaluation for Marine helicopters, so they had on the "green side" a fleet representative aircraft to do this testing.  OT&E, had CH-46, CH-53D/E, UH-1N.


What I have for VH-53D's transferred to HMX-1:








What I have for VH-53E's delivered to HMX-1:







These aircraft have now all been returned to the FMF due to the high use of the CH-53E, and the need for them to support GWOT operations.


Here is a picture of the HH-53C repainted from the "White Top" scheme, to the green side paint.



Notice the HH-53C aux tanks above


few more HMX-1 shots






Another shot of a HH-53C in the UK, yet another aux tank




r/Gunny Dan


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When the NAVY retired their RH-53D's as their MH-53E's were nearing full operational capability, they transferred some of their RH-53D's to our USMC Reserve squadron at then NAS Alameda.  When repainted they make for a very interesting subject to model, NAVY RH-53D, with mine counter measure (MCM) mirrors, Aerial Refueling (AR) probe installed and 650 gallon aux tanks.  All in nice new USMC tri-color camo.  See below:






a lot going on there to model in both 1/72 and 1/48th scale kits out there today.


Here are some RH's and MH's in awesome colorful NAVY markings:










Some USMC Tail art, up first my squadron HMH-462, "Screw Crew"






A Reserve HMH-769 RH-53D during Weapons and Tactics Course 1-95, painted as an aggressor helo.......hey the F-5's and A-4's cant have all the fun




another iranian RH-53D




Mexican Airforce IDF CH-53D


 Notice the low profile auxtanks, non folding rotor head and AR probe installed.


More to come


r/Gunny Dan


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Never got to fly - or fly in - any H-53 but I did work on the flight simulators for CH-53E, MH-53E and MH-53J, and got lots of "sim flight hours".


That 3-blade pic was particularly interesting.  :thumbsup:

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Firstly, yes, small world indeed - when you flew those two As into Pensacola, you would probably never have believed that 30 years later someone on the other side of the pond would be making pics of them available for anyone in the world to view on a thing called the internet! 


Regarding external tanks, the early ones were, I believe, adaptations of 450-gal drop tanks as carried by the F-105, later replaced by larger 650-gal ones, as seen in most of your pics. The early 'thin' tanks were carried at a distinct nose-down angle on a deeper pylon than the later 'fatter' tanks, which sat slightly nose-high - but it ain't necessarily always so...

....take another look at my photos of 8284, and you'll see it's not just the 'one-piece' tank fin that's unusual - 'fat' tank angled nose-down on a 'thin' tank pylon!


Speaking of unusual, among the rarest versions of the H-53 family was the Austrian S-65Oe, only two of which were delivered, and usually looked like this:



But rarer was when they briefly looked like this - an experimental camouflage apparently using water-soluble paints, not conducive to European weather!



As for the HMX-1 birds, my immediate thought when you mentioned the first example being an HH-53C was that must have been the subject of my thread, 157930 - there was, we've determined, only ever one 'white-top'...

....except that this entry https://www.helis.com/database/cn/1822/ shows 930 was built as a D, and transferred to HMX-1 in Mar 72 (which ties in with the Sikorsky archive photo and info) - helis.com also shows 157162, 165, 755 and 756 all built and delivered as D models. 157758 appears to be an AH-1 Sea Cobra BuNo...


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WOW, what an OUTSTANDING thread !!!! I really like H-53s, especially CH-53Es in their weird camo versions from Gulf war 🙂

I already sent FOIA request, but, any chance for this ?


MH-53J 69-5795 from 20th SOS/1st SOW - Tail separated during hard landing. After removal of excess weight, helo transported by CH-53E and then by C-5 back to USA. Repaired.


Any chance to find WHEN this happend ? It was during Gulf war, but exact date is unknown 🙂


And my contribution to this thread 🙂

unknown BuNo, but a bird from HMH-466 with YK-55 codes 🙂 (btw, Revell 1:72 kit has this marking)


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I was about to post the Austrian H-53's and you beat me to it.  GREAT rare pics of those thank you!!!  Into the archive they go.  I made a mistake with 157758, you are correct it is assigned to a AH-1J, quick check looks to be HMLA-169.  Good catch!!


The internet is an amazing thing.  A UK fellow posting former USMC aircraft, transferred to the USAF, at a Naval Base in Florida........LOL😆


r/Gy Dan

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I have seen your Desert Storm web page, lots of great photos there, most of which I have already, but certainly I can try and shed some light on a few of the questions you have over there.


First off, the fate of CH-53E, 161390, HMH-465, "Iron Horse", out of Santa Ana CA, MCAS Tustin.  Crashed during a take off out of a Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP) after taking on fuel for a follow on mission.  the aircraft commander had pulled no 1 & no 3 engines back to try and cool them off while taking on fuel.  Pressure refueling a CH-53E is a long process, especially from a FARP as the pressure barely keeps up with the fuel we are burning while we sit there.  They taxied out from the FARP and did not bring those two engines back up to 100% and attempted a take off in high heat environment and a heavy condition being freshly fueled with only (1) engine at 100%.  With all three engines at 100% it would have been fine, but you see the result.  I know the crew chief of this airplane personally, and he has discussed this accident with all of us 53 guys as to not make that mistake again.  All survived this accident. 


Here are some desert MH-53J, PAVE LOW you may already have these.










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Here are some more interesting pictures:


CH-53E aerial refueling with duel HMMVV external loads




CH-53E, lifting M198 howitzers, Yuma AZ, WTI:



Back to testing CH-53's again.  More of the AIM-9 test on the CH-53E





IDF, CH-53D, missile test:



PAX RIVER HX-21 line up of CH-53s for testing:







First production CH-53A, Sikorsky Aircraft, 1960's



IDF taking delivery of USMC CH-53A's:



Another shot of the HMH-769 "Aggressor Helos" during WTI in Yuma, AZ:



Nice inflight shot of Heavy Lift Helicopters Inc. CH-53D in flight, showing off their painted rotor head and blades:



r/Gy Dan



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17 hours ago, habu2 said:

Never got to fly - or fly in - any H-53 but I did work on the flight simulators for CH-53E, MH-53E and MH-53J, and got lots of "sim flight hours".


That 3-blade pic was particularly interesting.  :thumbsup:

Habu, I also worked on the sims while I was with the H-53 Program Office,  PMA-261 at PAX River.  Did you work on them there?  Or down in Orlando FL?

I mostly worked with the maintenance trainers in New River, NC.  But also worked on the WST's and CFTD's for the CH-53E.  My last big sim project was the CFTD for the Hawaii guys, when they stood down CH-53D's and stood up with CH-53E's.



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3 hours ago, YF65_CH53E said:

Habu, I also worked on the sims while I was with the H-53 Program Office,  PMA-261 at PAX River.  Did you work on them there?  Or down in Orlando FL?

I mostly worked with the maintenance trainers in New River, NC.  But also worked on the WST's and CFTD's for the CH-53E.  My last big sim project was the CFTD for the Hawaii guys, when they stood down CH-53D's and stood up with CH-53E's.


I worked for a company called Rediffusion, we were the main contractor designing and building the sims.  I was a project engineer for the CGI visuals and the motion base. This was back in the mid '80s.


I also worked on the first AV-8B sims at Cherry Point, near New River IIRC. Only work I did at Pax was in the E-6B SIL (hush hush).

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ahhhh yes the E-6B. When I got to Pax we had a Marine Security Guard detachment there along with the Marine Aviation Detachment (MAD) which I was assigned. The MSG Det was in charge of security for that particular airframe.....shhhhh shhh now. 


US Navy personnel now guard her. I know of that sim over at man flight. Visuals have come a long way since the 80’s that’s for sure. All of the MV-22B sims are CFTDs non motion. Built by Veraxx, they are amazing to fly. Marine Corps is “trying” to get away from full motion.....we shall see. 


Im sure I flew in some of your work out at MCAS Tustin ( 1985-1997) when the crew chiefs got a chance to go over with our pilots and fly the sim. Funny, we always wanted to fly through the big hangars....lol. Fun stuff 


r/Gy Dan

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