23-Feb-2012 Source: US Marine Corps
After more than 40 years of service, the Marine Corps retired the aging CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter during a â€œsundown ceremonyâ€ Feb. 10 at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
â€œFrom Vietnam, to Iraq and now in Afghanistan, the helicopter has provided sustaining and mission critical lift in every clime and place over past 40 plus years,â€ said Marine Corps Col. Robert Pridgen, program manager for the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261) here. â€œBut it is those magnificent Marines and Sailors â€“ the pilots and maintainers of this helicopter â€“ who went in harmâ€™s way to support those on the ground, who have written the storied history of this exceptional aircraft in Marine Corps aviation.â€
The Sea Stallionâ€™s last mission is currently underway with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The helicopter will be flown from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay to its final destination at the Pacific Aviation Museum, where it will be displayed.
Designed by the Marine Corps with partner Sikorsky in response to a request for a new assault helicopter in 1947, the prototype of the CH-53A Sea Stallion made its first flight Oct. 14, 1964. In response to the Vietnam War, the CH-53D model allowed for increased performance at higher altitudes and temperatures, which would prove invaluable to the Marine Corps in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Production of A and D model Sea Stallions ended in January 1972, with 124 CH-53Ds built in all.
â€œNow that the Sea Stallion has retired, the Marine Corps has begun the transition to CH-53E Super Stallions, which will soon be joined by the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and H-1 Huey and Cobra helicopters in Hawaii.â€ Pridgen said. â€œThis transition will ensure our fleet is equipped with an aviation capability that is flexible and ready today to complete missions as assigned.â€