Tag Archives: Sea Stallion

Last advanced Stallions up for delivery in Germany

Fifteen more years of useful service. In 2010, that was the goal of an Airbus Helicopters modification program for German Air Force CH-53G Stallion heavy transport helicopters. Over the past years, these green giants have been getting modernized cockpits, new avionic and warfare suites and countless other upgrades.

The end is near for the modification program, delivering fourty modernized helicopters to the German Air Force. They are known as CH-53GA, signifying ‘Germany Advanced’. As it should.

In the Airbus Helicopters Military Support Center (MSC) in Donauwörth, Germany, well over a dozen Sikorsky CH-53s receive attention. Among them are the last of fourty of these airborne workhorses to be upgraded to CH-53GA. When done, the upgrade shows itself by no uncertain means in the cockpit, where avionics and communications systems almost identical to those used in the NH90 and Tiger attack helicopter, present themselves to awaiting pilots. All is contained in a completely new glass cockpit.

Miles away

With five multi-function displays, the new cockpit is miles away from the analogue workplace it used to be. “We’re taking out all the old mechanical instruments and we put in multifunctional displays that provide the crew with enormous flexibility and increased efficiency”, says Michael Hoofdmann, head of programs at the MSC.

A huge upgrade is the newly designed four-axis autopilot with auto-hover automatic flight control system that is similar to the NH90’s auto pilot. An electronic warfare system for threat recognition and electronic self-protection protects crews in hostile environments. A forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor turret is also part of the update.

The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)
The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)

Four decades

The first modernized Stallion was handed back to the German Air Force in 2012, close to four decades after the first of 110 helicopters were introduced in German service. Externally, the CH-53GA lacks the big fuel tanks that identified the past CH-53GS update, a program that mainly served to add personnel recovery and extraction capabilities. An internal fuel tank has been installed in the latest variant instead.

Fleet

The current German fleet consist of forty CH-53GA and 26 remaining CH-53GS/GE helicopters (of which 20 GS and 6 GE), adding up to 66 in total. To examine the remaining service life, one CH-53G has been completely dismantled and inspected for signs of fatigue at Donauwörth. The fleet saw extensive use over the last decades, deploying to Afghanistan and Kosovo. In the same timeframe, all remaining helicopters were transferred from the Germany Army to the German Air Force. The NH90 took the CH-53’s place in the Army.

One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Twilight

Updated or not, truth is the Stallion is in the twilight of its career. Berlin is looking at its options, being either the CH-47F Chinook or… the CH-53K. The ‘Kilo’ is the latest incarnation of the Stallion, seeing its first flight just last year. There is no road map yet for a purchase, but it seems likely the Germans will decide on a new heavy transport helicopter in the next two or three years. Deliveries are still at least six years away.

Until then, the CH-53GA is the tool of the trade when it comes to heavy helicopter transport in Germany. “They are now state of the art again”, concludes Michael Hoofdmann. “No more upgrades needed for these helicopters.”

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Photo Feature: Cold Response 2016

About 15,000 troops, including 2,000 of non-NATO member Sweden, 40 aircraft and helicopters, about a thousand vehicles and several ships and boats are currently kicking a** in Northern and Central Norway. Exercise Cold Response included the taking of the normally peaceful village of Namsos, situated on the shores of beautiful fjords.

The 7th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from mainly NATO countries together, to show what they can as “bad” and “good” force against each other. To train for a possible real war scenario and to show NATO’s current strange “friend” Russia that the North American-European alliance still can.

The Swedes participating took the run-up to Cold Response very seriously, as you could read earlier here at Airheadsfly.com.

We selected some of the great images of this years edition made by Norwegian defence photographers for you. Have fun!

Featured image (top): From the back seat of a RNoAF F-16BM, closing in on the American B-52. (Image © 331 SQN / Forsvaret)

A F-16 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force taking off from Bodø Main Air Station to escort a USAF B-52 bomber over Namsos. The departure marks the start of the winter exercise Cold Response 2016 (Image © Gard Eirik Seter / Luftforsvaret)
A F-16 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force taking off from Bodø Main Air Station to escort a USAF B-52 bomber over Namsos. The departure marks the start of the winter exercise Cold Response 2016 (Image © Gard Eirik Seter / Luftforsvaret)
A short time later followed by a Belgian Air Component F-16AM (Image © Gard Eirik Seter / Luftforsvaret)
A short time later followed by a Belgian Air Component F-16AM (Image © Gard Eirik Seter / Luftforsvaret)
From the back seat of a RNoAF F-16BM, closing in on the American B-52. (Image © 331 SQN / Forsvaret)
From the back seat of a RNoAF F-16BM, closing in on the American B-52. (Image © 331 SQN / Forsvaret)
Hi Buff! Seen from the back seat of a RNoAF F-16BM (Image © 331 SQN / Forsvaret)
Hi Buff! Seen from the back seat of a RNoAF F-16BM (Image © 331 SQN / Forsvaret)
Once about to be axed due to budget cuts, the Royal Netherlands Air Force deployed Cougars both in the old camo as well as the newer overall grey paint scheme to Cold Response 2016  (Image ©  Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
Once about to be axed due to budget cuts, the Royal Netherlands Air Force deployed Cougars both in the old camo as well as the newer overall grey paint scheme to Cold Response 2016 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
The Marines have landed, or almost, as this Sikorsky CH-53E is about to put some boots on the ground (Image ©  Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
The Marines have landed, or almost, as this Sikorsky CH-53E is about to put some boots on the ground (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
And there they are, as a small surprise coming from the USMC Sea Stallion, Royal Netherlands Marines in the Scandinavian snow ... looking fancy and all in their new ski goggles (Image ©  Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
And there they are, as a small surprise coming from the USMC Sea Stallion, Royal Netherlands Marines in the Scandinavian snow … looking fancy and all in their new ski goggles (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret)
And especially for those who like photoshopped blue skies (we don't discuss taste) here are the two Dutch Cougars and US Marines CH-53E navigating through the Norwegian landscape (Image ©  Julie Kristiansen Johansen / Forsvaret)
And especially for those who like photoshopped blue skies (we don’t discuss taste) here are the two Dutch Cougars and US Marines CH-53E navigating through the Norwegian landscape (Image © Julie Kristiansen Johansen / Forsvaret)
The crew of a Royal Norwegian Armed Forces Bell 412 at work (Image © Kristian Kapelrud / Forsvaret)
The crew of a Royal Norwegian Armed Forces Bell 412 at work (Image © Kristian Kapelrud / Forsvaret)
After dropping off Dutch troops, the Royal Netherlands Air Force Cougar takes off (Image © Annette Ask / Forsvaret)
After dropping off Dutch troops, the Royal Netherlands Air Force Cougar takes off (Image © Annette Ask / Forsvaret)
A rather gorgious image of a Swedish HKP 15 (Agusta A109) at sundown (Image © Kristian Kapelrud / Forsvaret)
A rather gorgious image of a Swedish HKP 15 (Agusta A109) at sundown (Image © Kristian Kapelrud / Forsvaret)
Photo flight of the naval battle group steaming impressively forwards (Image © Elias Engevik)
Photo flight of the naval battle group steaming impressively forwards (Image © Elias Engevik)
Norwegian and Beligan F-16s preparing for another mission (Image © Olav Standal Tangen / Forsvaret)
Norwegian and Beligan F-16s preparing for another mission (Image © Olav Standal Tangen / Forsvaret)

German Giants in the US

The German Air Force always has had a strong presence in the US for training purposes, but its Sikorsky CH-53G Super Jolly Green Giants are rarely seen on US soil. That changed with the arrival of three CH-53s at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, for exercise Angel Thunder this month.

Angel Thunder is a large Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) exercise that takes place in the US Southwest, starting 20 May. The exercise specializes in CSAR operations in difficult conditions. A total of eight nations take part and Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, serves as the epicentre of the exercise.

The big helicopters were transported from their German home in Laupheim to Holloman by Antonov An-124 transport aircraft. At Holloman, the German choppers were readied for flight again.

Holloman is Germany’s home-away-from-home in the US. Countless German fighter pilots received their training here, on F-4 Phantoms in the past and on Tornado fighter-bombers in the present.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): One of the CH-53s at Holloman. (Image © Luftwaffe/Astrid Burger-Weber)

Big capacity problems for US Navy Green Giants

Roughly a year after a MH-53 Sea Dragon crashed off the east coast of the United States, the US Navy is still suffering of big capacity problems with its Sikorsky MH-53 Sea Dragon and CH-53 Sea Stallion fleet. Less than half of these “Super Jolly Green Giants” – as they were known in the 1970s when the US Air Force operated olive green painted versions – are operational. The rest remains grounded.

Official numbers were confirmed this week by the US Navy, which had all its CH-53/MH-53 crews undergo inspection trainings. Moreover all choppers, the biggest in US service, need to undergo rewiring which turned out to be a time-costly operation.

On Friday 24 April 2015 sixty-eight of the 177 Super Stallions and Sea Dragons are back in the air, with inspections done on a 118 choppers. It might take another year before the majority of the heavy-lift rotary wing is back into service.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A US Navy MH-53 lands in Hoboken, New Jersey on 3 November 2012 (Image © Cpl. Bryan Nygaard / US Marine Corps)

Darwin grows into US Marines helibase

Australian Defence Forces base Darwin, in the Northern Territory facing Asia, is slowly growing into a major US support location. From March/April till September the base will hold 22 rotary wing of the US Marine Corps.

Located slightly north-east of the city of Darwin, the RAAF Base is a so-called forward operating location with the runway shared with Darwin International Airport. It is home to a detachment of Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from No. 92 Squadron as well as air force base units.

USMC Squadrons Squadrons HMH-462, HMH-463, HMLA-367 and HMLA-367 will bring a combined force of eight Bell AH-1W Super Cobras, six Bell UH-1Y Venoms and eight Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions to the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, according to current plans. They will train together with RAAF elements and provide the US with a jump spot for possible operations in Asia.

Source: US Marine Corps

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)