As an expeditionary force, the U.S. Marine Corps is expected to operate in distant, faraway places with little support from the other services. That’s why, for example, it operates its own heavy artillery, fighter jets, and even aerial refueling tankers. That’s also why its largest helicopter, the CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy lift helicopter, can lift other helicopters in the Marines’ inventory if the latter run into a jam.
In this video, a Sea Stallion lifts a AH-1Z attack helicopter during an exercise on Idesuna Jima, an uninhabited island off the coast of Okinawa. The is one of the largest and most powerful helicopters in U.S. military inventory, capable of carrying 55 troops or up to 31,900 pounds of cargo attached to a sling underneath.
The is the Marine Corps’ newest and most deadly attack helicopter. A two engine version of the older AH-1 Cobra, the “Zulu” is fully modernized and optimized for maritime environments. Armed with a 20-millimeter cannon, rockets, and air-to-air and anti-tank missiles, the AH-1Z functions as an armed escort for Marine transport helicopters and provides close-air support to friendly ground forces.
In the event a Zulu goes down, a CH-53E can actually lift it and transport the helicopter back to maintenance facilities for repairs. The attack helicopter weighs just 12,300 pounds unloaded, with a maximum takeoff weight of 18,500 pounds including crew, fuel, and weapons.
The video above depicts a AH-1Z with its rotors and external stores removed being lifted by a CH-53E. The four person recovery team on the ground pops a green smoke grenade to indicate the Zulu is fitted with a transport sling and ready for travel. The huge CH-53E slowly comes into view and then hovers in place while the recovery team connects the two aircraft to one another. The Sea Stallion practices the art of gently lifting and putting down the attack helicopter while another AH-1Z circles nearby, providing security for the operation.