MH-53M “Pave Low”
Air Force special operations forces used the Sikorsky MH-53M to covertly enter enemy territory. Capable of operating at day or night or in bad weather, these helicopters conducted long-range, low-level missions to insert, extract, and resupply special operations forces.
The MH-53 helicopters were originally HH-53 “Super Jolly Green Giants” used by the U.S. Air Force in the Southeast Asia War. Over the years, however, they received many upgrades and improvements. After the 1960s, they were completely re-skinned and had their engines and rotors replaced. Along with these improvements came a new designation, MH-53 (“M” for Multi-mission and “H” for helicopter).
The most significant enhancement to the Super Jollies was the Pave Low program, which modified them for operating at night or during bad weather. Equipped with forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, inertial global positioning systems (GPS), Doppler radar navigation systems, and terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar the MH-53 could fly clandestine, low-level missions in any weather, day or night.
The MH-53M Pave Low IV has a system that greatly increased the aircraft’s capabilities. This system gave the aircrew instant access to the total battlefield situation on a color, digital map screen that was compatible with night vision goggles. Using feed from satellite links, the system displayed nearly real-time information about potential hazards along the flight route such as power lines or enemy electronic threats.
The aircraft on display was assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron and one of its last combat missions was in Iraq in June 2008. During its 38-year career, this helicopter participated in many important missions. First delivered to the USAF in July 1971, this aircraft was immediately sent to the 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhom Phanom Air Base in Thailand. It served 4 years in Southeast Asia before being shipped to USAFE and later to the US and began its special operations career. After Vietnam, it also flew in many more combat engagements including Operation DESERT STORM and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM before it was retired. This aircraft flew to the Robins AFB in August 2008 for retirement and display at the Museum.
Rotor diameter: 72 ft.
Length: 88 ft.
Height: 25 ft.
Armament: Combination of three 7.62 mm mini-guns or three .50-cal machine guns
Engines: Two General Electric T64-GE-100 engines with 4,330 shaft hp. per engine
Serial Number: 70-1626
Maximum speed: 165 mph. (at sea level)
Range: 690 miles
Service ceiling: 16,000 ft.