24 March 2000: In flight near Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, is this Sikorsky MH-53J Pave Low IIIE, a “Super Jolly Green Giant” special operations helicopter assigned to the 551st Special Operations Squadron. This helicopter, serial number 66-14428, was the very first HH-53B built. [A photograph of its first flight is posted on TDiA at “15 March 1967”]
A variant of the United States Navy/Marine Corps CH-53A Sea Stallion, the Super Jolly Green Giant was the largest, most powerful, and fastest helicopter in the United States Air Force inventory. Configured for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and special operations, the HH-53B was equipped for inflight refueling and was armed with three General Electric GAU/2A 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Over the decades, HH-53B 66-14428 was upgraded to HH-53H, then Pave Low II, HH-53J Pave Low III and finally to MH-53J Pave Low III Enhanced configuration.
The Super Jolly Green Giant has an overall length of 88 feet, 2.4 inches (26.833 meters) with rotors turning. With the refueling boom extended, the total length of the helicopter is 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters). The fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long and 8 feet (2.438 meters) wide. The HH-53B had an overall height of 24 feet, 10.8 inches (7.590 meters).
The MH-53J’s six-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters) and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) At 100% NR, the rotor turns 185 r.p.m. The tail rotor has four blades and a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters). It is positioned on the left side of a vertical pylon, or fin, in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)
The MH-53J has an empty weight of 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight (wartime) is 50,000 pounds (22,680 kilograms). 66-14428 was originally equipped with two General Electric T64-GE-3 turboshaft engines, producing 3,080 shaft horsepower, each. These were later upgraded to T64-GE-100 engines, increasing power to 4,330 shaft horsepower.
The helicopter has a maximum speed (VNE) of 143 nautical miles per hour (165 miles per hour, 266 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It’s range is 591 nautical miles (680 miles, 1,094 kilometers) and is capable of inflight refueling.
The Air Force ordered eight HH-53B and 58 improved HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants. Throughout their service lives, the Super Jolly Green Giants were continuously upgraded.
66-14428 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, 7 January 2007, after 40 years of service.
15 March 1967: The first Sikorsky HH-53B, 66-14428, made its maiden flight at Stratford, Connecticut. At the controls was Sikorsky test pilot James R. (“Dick”) Wright. The helicopter would be called the “Super Jolly Green Giant.”
A variant of the United States Navy/Marine Corps CH-53A Sea Stallion, the Super Jolly Green Giant was the largest, most powerful, and fastest helicopter in the United States Air Force inventory. Configured for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and special operations, the HH-53B was equipped for inflight refueling and was armed with three General Electric GAU/2A 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Over the decades, 428 was upgraded to HH-53H, then Pave Low II, HH-53J Pave Low III and finally to MH-53J Pave Low III Enhanced configuration.
The HH-53B Super Jolly Green Giant was flown by two pilots and was crewed by a flight engineer/gunner, and two pararescue jumpers (“PJs”). It has an overall length of 88 feet, 2.4 inches (26.833 meters) with rotors turning. With the refueling boom extended the total length of the helicopter is 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters). The fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long and 8 feet (2.438 meters) wide. The HH-53B had an overall height of 24 feet, 10.8 inches (7.590 meters).
The HH-53B’s six-bladed main rotor had a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters) and turns counter-clockwise, seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) At 100% NR, the rotor turns 185 r.p.m. The tail rotor has four blades and a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters). It is positioned on the left side of a vertical pylon, or fin, in a pusher configuration. The tail rotor turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)
The HH-53B had an empty weight of 26,500 pounds (12,020 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight was 42,000 pounds (19,051 kilograms). HH-53B was originally equipped with two General Electric T64-GE-3 turboshaft engines, producing 3,080-shaft horsepower, each. The helicopter has a maximum speed (VNE) of 130 nautical miles per hour (150 miles per hour, 241 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 16,750 feet (5,105 meters). It’s range is 540 nautical miles (621 miles, 1,000 kilometers) and is capable of inflight refueling.
The Air Force ordered eight HH-53B and 58 improved HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants. The first HH-53B was delivered to the Air Force on 12 November 1967. The HH-53B can be visually identified by the two diagonal sponson support struts on each side of the fuselage.
66-14428 was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 7 January 2007 after nearly 40 years of service.
27 September 2008: A United States Air Force Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV special operations helicopter, serial number 68-8284, assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron, flew its final combat mission before being withdrawn from service and retired after 40 years and 12,066.6 flight hours.
The MH-53M Pave Low IV is a variant of Sikorsky’s S-65 heavy-lift military transport helicopter series. Built by Sikorsky in 1968 as one of 40 HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), 68-8284 has been constantly modernized and upgraded. In the Pave Low IV configuration, it is also used for special operations as well as search and rescue.
The MH-53M is a single main rotor, single tail rotor, twin-engine helicopter. It has a crew of six: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers and 2 gunners. The Pave Low IV is equipped with terrain-following radar and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) for low-level operations in darkness and low visibility.
The MH-53M fuselage is 67 feet, 2.4 inches (20.483 meters) long, and the helicopter has a maximum length of 91 feet, 11.34 inches (28.025 meters) with rotors turning and the refueling boom extended. The height to the top of the main rotor pylon is 17 feet, 1.68 inches (5.224 meters). The maximum height (rotors turning) is 24 feet, 10.88 inches (7.592 meters).
The articulated 6-blade main rotor has a diameter of 72 feet, 2.7 inches (22.014 meters). The main rotor turns counter-clockwise at 185 r.p.m. (100% Nr), as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The main rotor blades are built with titanium spars and have -16° of twist. The semi-articulated four-blade tail rotor has a diameter of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.877 meters) and is positioned on the left side of the tail pylon. It turns clockwise at 792 r.p.m., as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The gap between rotor arcs is just 4.437 inches (11.270 centimeters).
Empty, the MH-53M weighs 32,000 pounds (14,515 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight is 46,000 pounds (20,865 kilograms).
Its two General Electric T64-GE-100 axial-flow turboshaft engines have a Normal Continuous Power rating of 3,810 shaft horsepower at 85 °F. (30 °C.), Military Power rating of 4,090 shaft horsepower, and a Maximum Power rating of 4,330 shaft horsepower. The T64-GE-100 is 79 inches (2.007 meters) long, 20 inches (0.508 meters) in diameter and weighs 720 pounds (327 kilograms). Output (100% N2) is 13,600 r.p.m.
The MH-53M has a maximum speed of 196 miles per hour (315 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 16,000 feet (4877 meters). It carries two 450-gallon (1,703 liter) jettisonable fuel tanks under each sponson.
The MH-53M is armed with two M134 7.62mm miniguns and a GAU-18/A .50 caliber machine gun.
At the time they were retired, the MH-53M was the fastest, heaviest, most powerful helicopter in the United States Air Force inventory.
After leaving Iraq, 68-8284 was transported by C-17 Globemaster III to England. It was loaned to the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, where it is on display.
1 September 1968: Two U.S. Air Force McDonnell F-4D Phantom II fighters were on a pre-dawn strike against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near the Ban Karai Pass. Both Phantoms, call signs CARTER 01 and CARTER 02, were hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and their crews had to eject. Both pilots from CARTER 01 were quickly picked up, but the aircraft commander of CARTER 02 was hidden by the jungle. The Weapons System Officer was never seen again.
A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission was immediately sent out to locate and rescue the missing airmen. Two Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant helicopters, the recovery team, were escorted by four Douglas A-1 Skyraiders to help in the search and to suppress any enemy gunfire that was trying to shoot down the rescue helicopters.
The Skyraider was a Korean War era carrier-based attack airplane originally in service with the U.S. Navy. It had been replaced by modern jet aircraft, but the Air Force found that its slow flight and ability to carry a heavy fuel and weapons load were ideal for the CSAR escort mission.
The four Skyraiders were from the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhom Phanom, Thailand. They operated with the call sign SANDY. Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, the squadron commanding officer, on his 98th combat mission, was the on-scene commander flying SANDY 01, an A-1H, serial number 52-139738.
MEDAL OF HONOR JONES, WILLIAM A., III
Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968
Entered service at: Charlottesville, Virginia
Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Virginia
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On 1 of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flame engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hand, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than ball out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones’ profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of this country.
The United States Navy and Marine Corps adopted the Douglas Aircraft Company AD-1 Skyraider just after the end of World War II. The U.S. Air Force recognized its value as a close air support attack bomber, but it wasn’t until the early months of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that a number of Skyraiders were transferred to the U.S.A.F. These aircraft were identified by Department of the Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers, commonly referred to as “bureau numbers,” or “bu. no.” Once acquired by the Air Force, the two-digit fiscal year number in which the airplane was contracted was added to the bureau number, resulting in a serial number with a format similar to a standard U.S.A.F. serial number. For example, Lieutenant Colonel Jones’ Skyraider, A-1H 52-139738, was originally U.S. Navy AD-6 Skyraider Bu. No. 139738, authorized in 1952. (The Douglas AD series was redesignated A-1 in 1962.)
The Douglas AD-6 (A-1H) Skyraider is a single-place, single-engine attack aircraft. A low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear, it has folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers. The A-1H Skyraider is 39 feet, 3 inches long (11.963 meters) with a wingspan of 50 feet, ¼ inch (15.246 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). Its empty weight is 12,070 pounds (5,475 kilograms) and the maximum weight is 24,000 pounds (10,886 kilograms).
The A-1H is powered by a 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter), air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected, Wright Aeronautical Division R-3350-26WA Duplex-Cyclone (Cyclone 18 836C18CA1) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine, with water/alcohol injection. This engine has a normal power rating of 2,300 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m at 6,200 feet (1,890 meters), and a takeoff/military power rating of 2,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m. to 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The engine drives a 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meters) diameter, four-bladed Aeroproducts constant-speed propeller though a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The engine is 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter and 6 feet, 6.81 inches (2.002 meters) long. It weighs 2,848 pounds (1,292 kilograms), dry.
The A-1H Skyraider has a cruise speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour), a maximum speed of 319 miles per hour (513 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 342 miles per hour (550 kilometers per hour) at 15,400 feet (4,694 meters). The ceiling is 29,400 feet (8,961 meters). Carrying a 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bomb load, its combat radius is 275 miles (443 kilometers).
The A-1H is armed with four 20 mm M2 autocannon, with two in each outboard wing. The Skyraider can carry a combination of external fuel tanks, gun pods, bombs or rockets on 15 hardpoints.
Douglas built 713 AD-6 Skyraiders at Santa Monica, California.
18 July 1967: For the first time, a U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Combat Search and Rescue helicopter refueled in flight from a Lockheed HC-130P Combat King command and control aircraft during an actual rescue mission in Southeast Asia.