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Posted 10/19/2010 Printable Fact Sheet
Jolly Green Giant
Sikorsky CH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" S/N 65-12790
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Sikorsky CH-3E "Jolly Green Giant"
S/N 65-12790

Crew:   Three
Engines:   Two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines; 1,500 horsepower each
Main Rotor Diameter:   62 ft 0 in
Width:   15 ft 3 in
Length:   73 ft 0 in
Height:   18 ft 1 in
Weight:   empty: 13,255 lbs; max: 22,050 lbs
Speed:   max: 177 mph; cruise: 154 mph
Range:   779 miles with external fuel tanks
Service Ceiling:   21,000 ft
Armament:   Provisions for two .50-caliber machine guns
Cost:   $796,000 (approximate)

The 6514th Test Squadron of the Air Force Systems Command was activated at Hill AFB on July 1, 1973 as a detachment of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards AFB, California. The unit was responsible for the testing of remotely-piloted vehicles over the Utah Test and Training Range. To accomplish this task the 6514th operated a variety of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft for the launch and recovery of the RPVs, including the Sikorsky CH-3E.

This CH-3E, S/N 65-12790, was manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft in August 1966 and delivered to the USAF on December 17, 1966. It was immediately assigned to the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing of the Strategic Air Command at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

In February 1968 it was stationed at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, and in November 1972 moved to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. By July 1975 it was back in Arizona with the 100th SRW. One year later it was reassigned to the 432nd Tactical Drone Group of the Tactical Air Command, still at Davis-Monthan. In November 1976 the aircraft was transferred to the 6514th Test Squadron at Hill AFB.

While with the 432nd and 6514th the aircraft was used for mid-air recovery of remotely-piloted vehicles, such as target drones. Its radio call sign on these missions was usually "Little Jolly." It was fitted with the Mid-Air Recovery System (MARS), which consisted of a large winch in the cargo compartment and an underslung frame for deploying a large strap net in which drones could be caught for safe recovery after flights over the Utah Test and Training Range. The drone would be returned to base suspended beneath the aircraft via cables. Upon arrival, the drone would be lowered onto a large cushioned area. After refurbishment it could then be used again.

Sometimes during summertime operations over the Utah desert the helicopter's lifting ability would be sapped by the extreme heat and altitude, requiring that the drone be released in order to prevent the helicopter from crashing. In these cases the drones were usually damaged severely and only certain parts could be salvaged and reused.

The aircraft was retired in 1991 and transferred to the jurisdiction of the USAF Museum System. It was then relocated to Hill Aerospace Museum for static display.

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