The unique Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane heavy-lift helicopter also spawned a military form in the CH-54 Tarhe for the United States Army.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Front right side view of an Erickson Skycrane helicopter on display; color
Credit: Distant right side view of an Erickson Skycrane helicopter on display; color
Credit: Close-up detail view of the main rotor mast on an Erickson Skycrane helicopter on display; color
Credit: Low-angled right side view of an incoming Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter towing the M551 Sheridan tank; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter in forward operations during the Vietnam War; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter brings in an Army utility truck; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter with specialized ski undercarriage; color
Credit: A pair of modified Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopters in flight; color
Credit: An Erickson S-64 Skycrane helicopter at rest; color
Credit: Underside left hand view of a Sikorsky S-64 Tarhe helicopter hauling a field gun; color
Credit: Drawing of some of the important internal components of the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter with special cargo; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter hovers in over its cargo; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter towing another helicopter; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter readies its cargo; color
Credit: A modified Erickson Skycrane helicopter assists in fighting wildfires; color
Credit: An Erickson Skycrane helicopter moves in to secure another water load; color
Credit: Distant shot of a hovering Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter; color
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter moves a bridge piece into position; color
Credit: Yes, the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter can even move a house
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter transports an aircraft fuselage
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter moves two Huey helicopters to their new home
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter in-flight with a specialized payload
Credit: Close-up view of the forward fuselage of a Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter secures yet another cargo load
Credit: A SIkorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter takes off with a collectin of field artillery
Credit: The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter takes up another load of cargo
Credit: The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe tows another helicopter into place
Credit: A Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe helicopter moves a tractor into position
The original Sikorsky S-60 proved itself as a heavy-lift helicopter through its sole example completed. This model was born from the established CH-47 "Mojave" (detailed elsewhere on this site) of the United States military and used as the basis for the dimensionally larger S-64 "Skycrane" heavy-lift series. The large helicopter - easily identifiable by its largely missing fuselage section - has seen consistent service in the civilian market since introduction in the 1960s. It served as the base design for the military-minded CH-54 "Tarhe" line as well. A prototype went airborne for the first time on May 9th, 1962 and, in 1992, production rights for the series was obtained by Erickson Air-Crane which has taken on manufacture of the large helicopter from Sikorsky since.
Total production of S-64 units was 110 beginning with the original S-64 built in three examples. These were followed by six evaluation models for the United States Army as the S-64A. From that came the S-64B which was the civilian-minded version of the Army's CH-54A model and seven were produced. Under Erickson, the line was broadened to include the S-64E and S-64F model marks, these becoming upgraded forms of the CH-54A and CH-54B respectively - the F-model introducing Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-5A series engines.
Civilian market operators of the S-64 are found in Italy, South Korea and the United States. Its primary role is in firefighting where its unique configuration allows the helicopter to carry a considerable water load over uneven terrain, dropping its contents onto raging wildfires with the hope of putting the fire source out.
Production of the military-minded Tarhe yielded 105 total units of its own beginning with the six YCH-54A pre-production models. These were followed by the CH-54A production form which fitted 2 x PW T73-P-1 series turboshaft engines of 4,500 horsepower and 54 examples were built to the standard. The CH-54B saw an increase in overall weight as well as a twin-wheeled undercarriage introduced while power was now served through PW T73-P799 turboshaft engines of 4,800 horsepower. 37 examples were manufactured.
Beyond its service with the United States Army, the CH-54 has been featured by the NASA service of the United States for various program work. In military use, the Tarhe has hauled all manner of heavy objects - from oversized bombs and attack helicopters to combat tanks and cargo containers. A special version even featured skies as its undercarriage.
March 2018 - Flight tests of an S-65 featuring a composite main rotor blade assembly are ongoing. Certification is scheduled for later in 2018 and will be an offered upgrade to E- and F-models as well as to the related CH-54A/B model family. The airfoil on the new blade design is expected to increase overall efficiency of these aging platforms.
February 2020 - An improved Skycrane form, the S-64F+, has been detailed with all-modern powerplants, composite rotors, and modernized avionics suite. In addition to this, an autonomous operating function is being considered through the Sikorsky "Matrix" suite, allowing the fire-fighting forms to operate without a manned crew in danger.
Status Active, Limited Service
[ 215 Units ] : Sikorsky Aircraft / Erickson Air-Crane - USA
Italy; South Korea; United States
88.48 ft (26.97 m)
72.01 ft (21.95 m)
25.43 ft (7.75 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe production model)
19,798 lb (8,980 kg)
46,297 lb (21,000 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe production model)
2 x Pratt & Whitney T73-P-700 turboshaft engines developing 4,800 shaft horsepower each powering a six-blade main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe production model)
149 mph (240 kph; 130 kts)
18,373 feet (5,600 m; 3.48 miles)
230 miles (370 km; 200 nm)
1,330 ft/min (405 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe production model)
YCH-54A - Six Pre-Production Aircraft
CH-54A - Initial Production Model; fitted with 2 x T-73-P1 series turboshaft engines of 4,500 shaft horsepower; 54 examples produced.
CH-54B - Second Production Model; increased weight; based on the CH-54A; fitted with 2 x T-73-P700 turboshaft engines of 4,800 shaft horsepower; 29 examples produced.
S-64 "Skycrane" - Civilian Variant of the US Army CH-54 Tarhe; 3 examples produced.
S-64A - Evaluation Models for the US Army; 6 examples delivered.
S-64E - Civilian Version based on the CH-54A production model for the US Army; 7 examples produced.
S-64 "Aircrane" - Current Civilian Production Form.
S-64E - Upgraded CH-54A production models; single new-build example.
S-64F - UPgraded CH-54B production models; fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-5A series engines.
S-64F+ - Proposed all-modern offering with Sikorsky autonomous flight suite (Matrix).
(Cockpit image represents the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe production model)
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