Pleased with the results of their decision to pull a half dozen CH-53Es out of mothball status in the desert and refurbish them for combat, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command and the U.S. Marine Corps have decided to do the same with several Delta model CH-53s to augment CH-46E Sea Knights in medium-lift missions.
The Bell/Boeing MV-22 Osprey was designed to replace the Sea Knights by now, but that tilt-rotor isn’t slated to join the fleet until later this year.
The program to resurrect the CH-53Es was considered somewhat risky, but two Marine squadrons recently started flying the first two of six being refurbished and are pleased with them, according to NavAir. The aircraft had been in storage at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., near Phoenix, for 12 years.
A third refurbished Echo is nearly ready for the fleet and three more are awaiting transportation, but those are the last deemed suitable for refurbishment.
The Corps has less than three dozen CH-53Ds in its active inventory and is short by a dozen or more of the 228 CH-46Es it needs for medium lift, according to a Marine document outlining future plans. The document notes the Marines are to begin replacing CH-46Es this year with the V-22. The Corps originally had hoped to put them in service in 1991.