Crew: Six – 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, and 2 aerial gunners
Armament: Three 7.62 mm mini-guns or three .50 cal machine guns
Engines: Two General Electric T64-GE-100 engines, 4,330 shaft hp ea
Rotor Diameter: 72 ft
Length: 88 ft
Height: 25 ft
Speed: 165 mph (at sea level)
Ceiling: 16,000 feet
Range: 690 miles
The United States Air Force used the Pave Low for special operations to enter enemy territory. These aircraft are capable of operating day, 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” and were used by the United States Air Force in the Southeast Asia War. Through the years, the aircraft received upgrades and improvements. After the 1960s, the helicopters were completely re-skinned and had the engines as well as the rotors replaced. In lieu of these improvements, the “H” (for helicopter) was changed to a “M” (For multi-mission.)
The most significant improvement on the Super Jollies was the Pave Low program. That program modified them for operating at night or during bad weather due to the fact they were equipped with Forward-Looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, inertial global positioning systems (GPS), Doppler radar navigation, and terrain following and terrain-avoidance radar. The MH-53 can fly clandestine, low-level missions day or night regardless of weather.
The Pave Low IV has a system that greatly increases the aircraft’s abilities by giving the crew instant access to the total battlefield situation on a color, digital mat screen that was compatible with night vision goggles. The system used feeds from satellite links, and the system displayed nearly real-time information about potential hazards along the flight route such as power lines or enemy electronic threats.
The MH-53 at the Hill Aerospace Museum was originally manufactured as a HH-53C. The Air Force obtained the aircraft in March 1971 when it was first assigned to the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Center, Military Air Transport Service, at Eglin Air Force Base. In May 1971 it was transferred to the 1550th Aircrew Training and Testing Wing, Military Airlift Command at Hill Air Force Base. In June 1974 it was transferred to the 6594th Test Group, AF Systems Command, at Hickam Air Force Base. In July 1986 the aircraft was moved to the 1st Special Operations WIng at Hurlburt Field where it was converted to a MH-53J configuration. It was then assigned to the 16th Special Operations Wing, AF Special Operation Command, at Hurlburt Field in 1994. While serving there it was upgraded to a MH-53M Pave Low IV.
The aircraft took its final flight in September 2008 to Hill Air Force Base.