The newest military version of Sikorsky's H-53E/S80 series, the MH-53E Sea Dragon, is the Western world's largest helicopter. The MH-53E is used primarily for Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM), with a secondary mission of shipboard delivery. Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) missions include mine sweeping and ancillary spotting, mine neutralization, floating mine destruction, channel marking, and surface towing of small craft and ships. Additional mission capabilities include air-to-air refueling, hover in-flight refueling, search and rescue, and external cargo transport operations, in both land and seaborne environments. The MH-53E Helicopter also has the ability to perform Vertical Onboard Delivery (VOD) missions as well as transportation of personnel and cargo.
Developed by Sikorsky, the MH-53E is a reconfigured version of the CH-53E Super Stallion presently being used by the Marine Corps. Both the CH-53E and MH-53E are involved in development and modernization programs. They will continue to provide a myriad of support functions for the fleet in the area of heavy and medium lift requirements. The prototype, MH-53E, made its first flight on 23 December 1981. It underwent evaluation and testing at the Naval Coastal Systems Center in Panama City, Fla. The MH-53E was derived from the CH-53E Super Stallion and is heavier and has a greater fuel capacity than its ancestor. The MH-53s can operate from carriers and other warships. Sea Dragon is capable of carrying up to 55 troops or a 16-ton payload 50 nautical miles or a 10-ton payload 500 nautical miles. The MH-53E is capable of towing a variety of mine-sweeping countermeasures systems, including the Mk 105 minesweeping sleed, the ASQ-14 side-scan sonar, and the Mk 103 mechanical minesweeping system.
The MH-53E's triple turbine engines provide greater lift for mine countermeasures operations while enlarged sponsons carry additional fuel to allow up to six hours of time on station. The new configuration also features the airborne mine countermeasures coupled, dual digital automatic flight control system. The system consists of two digital computers, a cockpit control box, six accelerometers, and five position sensors. It is 42 percent lighter, occupies 54 percent less volume and consumes 41 percent less power than the older analog system. There is no organizational level maintenance required. The computers continually cross-check one another and disable any potential false inputs to the automatic flight control system servos. If one computer fails, the other will automatically double its output, eliminating any degradation in automatic flight control performance.