During February 2012, AeroResource was invited to San Diego California to report on the MV-22B Osprey and CH-53E Super Stallion units that operate with Marine Aircraft Group 16. Mark Forest reports from MCAS Miramar, San Diego, California.

MAG-16 was formed on the 1st March 1952 at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, California and hosted eight units, Headquarters and Maintenance squadron 16, Marine Airbase 16, Marine Medium Helicopter squadrons 161, 163, 164, Marine Helicopter squadrons 361, 363 and Marine Training squadron 301.

60 years on MAG-16 forms a major component of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing ( MAW) Headquarters Command on MCAS Miramar. The 3rd MAW combat mission is to provide well trained, organized and equipped aviation expeditionary forces to deploy rapidly around the world as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). As part of the task force, MAG-16 is assigned a logistics support squadron and nine squadrons of MV-22B/CH-53Es.

Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Helicopter Squadrons – MV-22B

Unit Tailcode Name
VMM-161 YR Grey Hawks
VMM-163 YP Ridge Riders
VMM-165 YW White Knights
VMM-166 YX Sea Elks
VMM-561 PH Pale Horse – Tranferring to 1st MAW in May 2012

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadrons – CH-53E

Unit Tailcode Name
HMH-361 YN Grey Hawks
HMH-462 YF Ridge Riders
HMH-465 YJ White Knights
HMH-466 YK Sea Elks

The primary mission of MAG-16 is the transportation, re-supply and assault support for Marine air and ground units. This includes, but is not limited to, transporting troops, vehicles, supplies, artillery weapons, humanitarian supplies, dignitaries and even presidential personnel.

VMM-166 “Sea Elks”

Motto “Because We Can”
Mascot Lucky the Elk
Aircraft 12 x Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey
Crew Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer and Crew Chief

Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 transitioned from “Legacy” CH-46E Sea Knight aircraft on the 23rd June 2010. Formerly HMM-166, the unit became operational almost 26 years ago. Now operating the MV-22B Osprey, the transition from fixed rotor to Tilt-rotor platform provides the aircrew far greater operational capabilities than the Osprey’s predecessor. A combat proven unit with the CH-46E, VMM-166 have participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The MV-22B boasts an increase of capacity from 25 to 32 troops over the CH-46E, as well as increased maximum speed, from 165mph to 316mph. As well as being able to fly more equipment and faster, the Osprey also increase the combat radius from 160 to 390 nautical miles, whilst the ferry range increases hugely from 360 to 1940 nautical miles (with external fuel tanks). If those statistics are not convincing enough, the rate of climb increases from 2045 to 2320 feet per minute, with a service ceiling increase of 11000ft (from 14000ft to 25000ft). The increased capacity and higher power and efficiency lend themselves to an increase in Maximum Take Off Weight from 24300lb to 60500lb.

The MV-22B has a glass cockpit which features four multi-function displays (MFDs) and a shared Central Display Unit (CDU) which allows pilots to share images on a digital map. The Cockpit Management System (CMS) allows fully coupled autopilot functions which has the ability to send the MV-22B to a 50ft hover above the ground autonomously – i.e. without interaction from a pilot. Other notable new features to the MV-22 are fly-by-wire with a triplex redundant flight control system. MFDS allows a pilot to program in his/her own settings to the flight controls which normally takes around 15mins. Before takeoff the flight engineers and crew chiefs prepare the aircraft for the mission via laptop computers, linked in to the flight systems from the cargo hold of the aircraft.

Our host with VMM-166, Captain Moreira, took great pleasure in explaining all of the flight control systems of 168007 – this particular airframe marked with a special code in the style of 007 “James Bond”.

HMH-361 “Flying Tigers”

The “Flying Tigers” were commissioned some sixty years ago at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana and has seen major deployments in the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Flying Tigers began their transition to the CH-53E during 1990, after flying the earlier CH-53D model. The newer Super Stallion model comes with some impressive statistics – which are to be expected of a transport helicopter of this size.

Aircraft 14 x Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion
Crew 2 Pilots, Crew Chief/Right Gunner, Left Gunner, Tail Gunner
Capacity 37 Troops – increase to 55 with seats installed
Maximum Speed 196 miles per hour
Combat Radius 540 nautical miles
Ferry Range 990 nautical miles
Rate of Climb 2500 feet per minute
Ceiling 18500 feet
Armament 2 x XM218 window machine guns, 1 x GAU/M3M ramp machine gun
Role Assault Support
Maximum Take Off Weight 73500lb

The CH-53E is the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States military (the maximum takeoff weight surpasses that of the CH-47 by over 11 tonnes) and has been the backbone of the Marine Corps since it entered service in 1981. A total of 115 CH-53/MH-53E have been built and most still serve today with the Marine Corps and United States Navy.

AeroResource would like to offer their sincere thanks to VMM-166 and HMH-361 and their personnel for hosting the visits, Lt M Dooley & Sgt S Mcginty from the PAO media team and Ian French & Jon Astley for interviews, planning and co-ordinating the visit.