Search Is On For Missing Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion (Updated)

The Super Stallion went missing during a flight between Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

byThomas Newdick|
A CH-53E Super Stallion crew from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 test their aircraft on snowy terrain at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., May 20, 2011. For many of the Marines, this was the first time they landed in snow.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz/Released
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Details are still limited at this stage, but a search is on for a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter that went missing late Tuesday night while flying from Nevada to California.

The U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed that the CH-53 had five Marines onboard when it went missing. Search and rescue crews, including from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol are now looking for the helicopter as part of a coordinated effort.

The Super Stallion — reportedly callsign TIGER 11 — departed from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and was en route to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar close to San Diego, California, when it was “reported overdue.”

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department says it received a call at 1:50 a.m. and responded with its own helicopter. However, an atmospheric river storm raging over southern California meant it wasn’t able to reach the designated search area, ABC News reports.

Instead, the sheriff's department sent off-road vehicles to the search area, which is located in rough terrain.

Meanwhile, firefighters say they received news of the missing CH-53 at around 2:20 a.m. after it had failed to reach its destination. Cal Fire officials were sent to investigate the location where the helicopter was last known, north of Interstate 8 and Kitchen Road, southeast of Pine Valley, in the Cleveland National Forest. However, they found nothing, according to FOX 5 San Diego.

Cal Fire crews told FOX 5 that the area being searched was covered in snow, making it hard to access.

The Super Stallion is from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 (HMH-361), the “Flying Tigers,” part of Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

A Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 waits for training to start for the day at Camp Pendleton, California, in January 2018. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released

The CH-53E entered service in 1981 and has since seen extensive use, notably during the long-running conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In part due to their advancing age and heavy use, the Marine Corps is replacing its tired CH-53E fleet — of which, according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), there are 136 in service — with CH-53K King Stallions.

The CH-53K offers significant capability benefits over the CH-53E, especially when it comes to lifting heavier loads over greater distances. However, King Stallions retain the same physical footprint as the legacy Super Stallions. You can read more about the CH-53K in these past War Zone pieces.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Update, 10:15 a.m. PST –

Fox News reports that a crash site has been located as part of the search for the missing CH-53E. The same source states that first responders are continuing to search for the aircrew. 

The site is said to be located at 32.777260, -116.426930, west of Pine Valley, in the Cleveland National Forest.

Update, 10:40 a.m. PST –

The Marine Corps' 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW), based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, has now confirmed that the site of the CH-53E crash today was located in the Pine Valley at approximately 9:08 AM local time.

Search and rescue efforts utilizing air and ground assets are ongoing in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, according to a new press release from 3rd MAW, which can be found in full below:

USMC

Contact the author: thomas@thewarzone.com

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