Home Aircraft / Aviation Naval Warfare Land Systems Small Arms

Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe / Erickson S-64 Skycrane

Heavy-Lift Cargo / Firefighting Helicopter

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: 2/3/2020
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.

Program Updates

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.


Active, Limited Service
[ 215 Units ] :
Sikorsky Aircraft / Erickson Air-Crane - USA
National flag of Italy National flag of South Korea National flag of United States Italy; South Korea; United States
- Transport
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)
Empty Weight:
19,798 lb (8,980 kg)
46,297 lb (21,000 kg)
(Diff: +26,500lb)
(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)
Maximum Speed:
149 mph (240 kph; 130 kts)
Service Ceiling:
18,373 feet (5,600 m; 3.48 miles)
Maximum Range:
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 of the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe / Erickson S-64 Skycrane
(Cockpit image represents the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe production model)

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com.

Part of a network of sites that includes AnvilOfWar.com, GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, and WDMMA.org, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft.

www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-