FUTENMA, Okinawa - CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter and crew members executed confined area landing training Jan. 3 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in preparation for future deployments and to maintain the high-level of readiness demanded of their profession.
The helicopters and crew are with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, currently assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
Confined area landing is a technique used by helicopter squadrons when runways or formal landing zones are unavailable, according to Cpl. James J. Eck, a CH-53E crew chief with the squadron.
“These landings are made for dropping off Marines and gear in tactical environments,” said Eck. “Helicopters don’t require a runway to land and are capable of landing in limited areas, which makes it perfect for tactical missions.”
This training was part of the squadron’s preparation for deployments with the 31st MEU, including training in Korea, according to Capt. Brian P. Spillane, a CH-53E pilot and the training officer with the squadron.
“This training helps us by sharpening the skills of our more experienced Marines and developing new skills in our junior Marines,” said Spillane. “This way they’ll be better prepared for real-life scenarios.”
This landing technique is useful for maneuver warfare and disaster relief operations as well, according to Capt. Devin F. K
elly, a CH-53E pilot with the squadron.
“The (Super) Stallions can carry a max weight of 36,000 pounds of personnel and equipment and can land in confined areas,” said Kelly. “This makes them critical for tactical insertions on the battlefield as well as being capable of delivering humanitarian aid, such as food, water and other essentials, to remote villages or (affected) areas.”
The CH-53Es tactical capabilities were used in previous humanitarian and disaster relief operations such as the aid provided after a devastating typhoon in the Philippines and earthquakes in Indonesia in 2009, according to Kelly.
During the training, two CH-53E helicopters departed from MCAS Futenma and flew to the Central Training Area.
“During any operation, the smallest unit we move in is two helicopters,” said Eck. “This way we are capable of supporting each other in case of an emergency. It’s like having a battle buddy; you look out for each other and make sure everyone gets back safely.”
The pilots of the aircraft then landed in several confined landing zones before and returning to MCAS Futenma; successfully completing the training.
“The CH-53E is perfect for both humanitarian and combat scenarios thanks to its landing abilities,” said Kelly. “It is for that reason we train to use every advantage this (aircraft) gives us.”