CH-53E Super Stallion lands on HMAS Canberra

This article has photo gallery Published on Department of Defence (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer), ABIS Steven Thomson (photographer)

Location(s): Honolulu

A United States CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 based at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii lands on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.  (photo: ABIS Steven Thomson)
A United States CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 based at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii lands on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

The largest and heaviest helicopter in service with United States armed forces has landed on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra for the first time.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53E Super Stallion flew to Canberra from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii as part of a series of ongoing US/Australian flight trials during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

The successful launch and recovery of the Super Stallion followed in close succession to the landing of a USMC MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft earlier in the week.

Commander – Flying, HMAS Canberra, Lieutenant Commander Adam Smith said the landing was a sign of enhanced collaboration with foreign Defence forces.

“We can now develop a program where we can operate with US aircraft in any theatre of operation,” he said.

“If the Americans are there, they can land on us, and we can support them with fuel and any sort of necessities they need as a platform to carry out their task.”

The CH-53E Super Stallion is slower than the long-range, high-speed Osprey, but can carry a staggering 13,600 kilograms of internal cargo; an underslung load of up to 14,500 kilograms or 55 troops with centreline seats installed.

The helicopter’s seven main rotor blades can deliver up to 95 knots of downwash depending on gross weight.

Aircraft Director, Leading Seaman Aviation Support Benjamin Sullivan said the experience of directing the landing of the Super Stallion will be one he’ll never forget.

“The helicopter is much bigger than anything I’ve directed before,” he said.

“The downwash was immense."

“It was a great experience!”

Lieutenant Commander Smith said that despite the aircraft size, the activity wasn’t too distinct from routine aviation operations in HMAS Canberra.

“The difference is getting to understand how that size difference fits in to our normal systems,” he said.

“We aim to be agile and adaptable.”

In recent years, the seasonal Marine Rotational Force – Darwin has included a detachment of CH-53 helicopters to support the training objectives of US Marines in Australia.

The cross-decking opportunities with the Royal Australian Navy’s two Landing Helicopter Docks will significantly enhance the two nations combined ability to respond swiftly to Humanitarian and Disaster Relief missions in the region.

The CH-53E deck trial is part a series of maritime warfare activities taking place as part of the Sea Phase of Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 16.

RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise, providing a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.

The exercise is the first major international engagement for the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), MH-60R Seahawk and MRH-90 helicopters.