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Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low)

United States (1981)
Picture of Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter
Picture of Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter Picture of Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter
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The mammoth Sikorksy MH-53 Pave Low series of helicopters proved critical to US Special Forces operations all over the globe.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 6/12/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The MH-53 was a series of large transport helicopters operated by the United States Air Force in the special operations role. The MH-53 designation breaks down as "M" standing for Multi-Mission and "H" standing for helicopter. The designation came about after extensive modifications were made to existing HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giants" (or "Super Jollies") operated by the USAF in Vietnam. After the war, these HH-53 aircraft were fitted with a myriad of improved systems, new engines and new rotors - earning them an all-new designation through the "Pave Low" program, a program which greatly increased the type's ability for night and adverse weather operations. These helicopters were designed for long-range, low-level flights in an effort to assist ground special forces through clandestine insertion, extraction and resupply as needed - often times behind enemy lines.

The MH-53 was operated by a crew of six consisting of two pilots (officers), two flight engineers and two enlisted gunners. Defensive suppression armament can consist of 3 x 7.62mm miniguns or 3 x 12.7mm heavy caliber machine guns. The MH-53 can record speeds of up to 165 miles per hour, a ceiling of up to 16,000 feet and a range of 690 miles. Power is derived from twin General Electric T64-GE-100 series turboshaft engines developing 4,330 horsepower each and powering a six-blade main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor.

The MH-53J "Pave Low III" series was based on modified MH-53H and HH-53 models for the special forces insertion/resupply/extraction role. Thirty-two HH-53s along with nine MH-53H systems were selected for Pave Low III modification. Onboard systems included GPS, inertial navigation and Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) along with an APQ-158 terrain-following and avoidance radar. This allowed the MH-53 the ability to complete low-light, low-level, all-weather flights consistent with special forces operations. Improved armor protection for the crew and systems also greeted the design.

The MH-53M "Pave Low IV" represented the final iteration of the Pave Low series. These systems were upgraded platforms of the MH-53J "Pave Low III" and fitted with improved defensive capabilities. Chief among these is the implementation of the Interactive Defensive Avionics System/Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal (IDAS/MATT). Pave Low IV gave MH-53 crews access to battlefield situations via a color digital map (even visible with the use of night vision goggles). The map was updated via satellite linkages and displayed near real-time data (including threats) along the flight route. MH-53Ms served on through 2008 in the special operations role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The MH-53 series was then officially retired from active service with the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) in 2008. Dating back to their days as the HH-53 in the Vietnam War (a famous group of five such aircraft taking part in Operation Kingpin - the rescue of American POWs from Son Tay prison near Hanoi), these aircraft served for many decades in their modified forms. Operations in Desert Storm were also conducted with this platform.


Picture of the Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter
Picture of the Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter



Any available statistics for the Sikorsky MH-53 (Pave Low) Multirole Transport Helicopter are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).




General Assessment (BETA)
Firepower  
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Performance  
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Survivability  
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Versatility  
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Impact  
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Rating: 52 (of 100)
The rating is an internal assessment derived from forty factors pertaining to this entry.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (196mph).

    Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
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PAR
 
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  MOS
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  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
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  NYC
Graph showcases the Sikorsky MH-53M (Pave Low IV)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
Pie graph section
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
41
41


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
Supported Mission Types:
Air-to-Air
Interception
Unmanned
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Training
Anti-Submarine
Anti-Ship
Airborne Early Warning
MEDEVAC
Electronic Warfare
Maritime/Navy
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Search/Rescue
Recon/Scouting
Special Forces
X-Plane/Development
National Flag Graphic
National Origin: United States
Service Year: 1981
Classification Type: Multirole Transport Helicopter
Manufacturer(s): Sikorsky Aircraft - USA
Production Units: 41
Operational Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
United States (retired)
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Sikorsky MH-53M (Pave Low IV) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
6


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
91.86 ft


Meters
28 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
71.85 ft


Meters
21.9 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
24.93 ft


Meters
7.6 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
32,000 lb


Kilograms
14,515 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
46,297 lb


Kilograms
21,000 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x General Electric T64-GE-100 turboshaft engines developing 4,330 shaft horsepower each and driving six-blade main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
196 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
315 kph


Knots
170 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
690 mi


Kilometers
1,111 km


Nautical Miles
600 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
15,997 ft


Meters
4,876 m


Miles
3.03 mi

Armament - Hardpoints (2):

Typical: 3 x 7.62mm M134 Miniguns OR 3 x 12.7mm Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) positioned one at left fuselage side, one at right fuselage side and one on the rear loading ramp. Two external side sponson hardpoints reserved for external fuel stores.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Variants: Series Model Variants
• MH-53 - Base Series Designation
• YHH-53H "Pave Low I" - Prototype Designation
• HH-53H "Pave Low II" - Night Infiltrator variant
• MH-53H - Redesignation of HH-53H production mark
• MH-53J "Pave Low III" - Special Forces variant based on HH-53B, HH-53C and HH-53H production models.
• MH-53M "Pave Low IV" - Improved and modernized MH-53J production mark.