Former Marine infantry rifleman explains why (except the VH-60 White Hawks flown by HMX-1) the USMC doesn’t use the Black Hawk Multirole Helicopter

Former Marine Infantry Rifleman explains why (except the VH-60 White Hawks flown by HMX-1) the USMC doesn’t use the Black Hawk Multirole Helicopter

By Dario Leone
Mar 19 2022
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One of the few military branches that does not use the iconic Black Hawk helicopter is the US Marine Corps. Why?

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During the last 40 years, the remarkable Black Hawk multirole helicopter has fought its way in and out of countless combat zones to deliver and extract troops, save lives as a MEDEVAC or casualty evacuation platform, provide critical supplies to troops, deliver emergency supplies during natural disasters, and perform as an aerial firefighter and border patroller.

The Black Hawk serves with the US military and the armed forces of 28 other countries worldwide as a tough, reliable utility helicopter.

More than 4,000 Black Hawks of all types are in service worldwide today. The US Army is the largest operator with 2,135 H-60 designated aircraft. The same aircraft sold internationally direct from Sikorsky acquires the S-70 designation.

One of the few military branches that does not use the iconic Black Hawk is the US Marine Corps. Why?

‘Marines don’t fly Black Hawks for a couple of reasons,’ Jonathan Burba, former infantry rifleman at US Marine Corps, explains on Quora. ‘First, Marine Corps aircraft have to be able to operate off of a ship. The MV-22 Osprey and the CH-53E Super Stallion [and in the future the CH-53K King Stallion] are both huge, but are capable of adjusting to fit on a flight deck. Both aircraft are large, but they actually fold for easy storage.

MV-22 Osprey print
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‘The Ospreys and Super Stallions also have a lot more cargo capacity than a Blackhawk. The Black Hawk can carry 11 loaded troops, the Osprey carries twice that, the Super Stallion can carry 50 or 60 depending on how the interior is arranged. As far as weight goes, the Blackhawk can carry up to 9000 lbs, the Osprey and Super Stallion carry 15,000 lbs and 36,000 lbs respectively. Since we operate from the sea, it’s helpful to be able to sling vehicles such as Hummers, JLTV’s and LAVs onto shore by helicopter, and since we’re operating off of a very small airport, all of the birds have to be able to handle a lot of different jobs. We didn’t use Hueys all that often the units I’ve served with, I’ve flown on 2 I think. I can’t tell you how may CH-53’s I’ve been on, it was usually that or the CH-46, the Ospreys were still being developed when I got out so I didn’t get to fly on those personally.’

Burba concludes;

‘The closest the Marine Corps has to the Black Hawk are the helicopters used by HMX-1 to fly the president. The Marine One birds are from the Black Hawk family, but all the VH-60 White Hawks are being retired and replaced with a new helicopter based on the Sikorsky S-92 in the near future though.’

USMC CH-53 Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters perform impressive formation flight
CH-53E Super Stallions

Photo credit: U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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Comments

  1. LTblackshoe says:

    Sorry, but that’s not exactly true. The Navy flies tons of 60s, so the reason for the Marines not flying Blackhawks being shipboard constraints is invalid. And sure, the Marines like their heavier lift helos, so there isn’t a need for the Blackhawk in those roles. But the main reason why Marines don’t fly Blackhawks is because they fly Super Hueys (Venoms). And why do they still fly Super Hueys? Because they fly Vipers. The Viper is a beefed up Super Cobra which is a beefed up Cobra which is based on the old Huey, and they have a ton of parts in common. So as long as the Marines have Vipers for their attack helicopters, they will have Venoms for their utility helicopters because the parts are interchangeable.

  2. Sgt_Jmack says:

    There are a lot of other factors involved here. But as stated before, it has a Lot to do with Money, and the fact that the Marines get a lower budget. We already have a bunch if older (relatively speaking) helicopters that work exceptionally well for their design history. Plus the Doctrine that requires Marine rotors to have dual engines.

    Size is a factor, and although I have ridden in a few Navy Blackhawks, those are kept on the larger carriers.

  3. dbright says:

    The author leaves out the cost part. As the blackhawk would of taken the role of the ch46. Both cost about the same. But one blackhawk could transport only 11 troops which means breaking a marine squad up. While the ch 46 could transport 22 marines. Thus a platoon could be transports by two ch46 vs 4 Blackhawks. Or two blackhawk makings four trips. As both aircraft would take up roughly the same space on the ship the ch46 was the better bang for its buck

  4. David Krueger says:

    I think there are many reasons that the Marine Corps didn’t field the SeaHawk or the “FatHawk” S-92 Helibus which was designed to compete with MV-22 and replace CH-46. Here are two that I believe affected the decision: 1) The majority of Senior Brass in USMC Helicopter Aviation were from the CH-46 community – MV-22 is a Bell/Boeing joint venture and 2) the Navy/Marine Corps didn’t want to become too “Sikorsky-centric.” I was a CH-53E crewchief from 1987-1993 and left to work at Sikorsky and help develop what is now known as CH-53K. It is amazing to me that 53K is just being built now 29 years later. It was needed by the late 90s. I guess we can thank our enjoyment of President Clinton’s “peace dividend” for that.

  5. HeloShark says:

    The Marines are not flying the H-60, because it would have compromised their plan to transition to the MV-22 Osprey.

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