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Heavyweight visitor to Prince of Wales as carrier continues US workout

30 October 2023
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

Actually, ‘he’ is heavy. Very heavy.

This is a CH-53E Super Stallion lifting off as dusk descends on HMS Prince of Wales off the east coast of the USA.

In between extensive trials with F-35B Lightnings, the air department of Britain’s biggest warship have squeezed every minute of their time stateside to make use of the Portsmouth-based carrier’s sprawling flight deck.

Dropping in here, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24MEU) of the US Marine Corps – one of seven such rapid reaction forces the US military has as its disposal to deploy worldwide when required.

Wherever a MEU (pronounced ‘M-you’) goes, like our own Royal Marines it’s backed up by logistical and air support.

Enter the mighty Super Stallion and the MV-22 Osprey to move troops and kit around.

We’ve featured the MV-22 earlier on this deployment, so let’s look at the Super Stallion.

It’s ten metres – over 30ft – longer than the largest Fleet Air Arm helicopter, the Merlin, the same length as a Chinook.

Empty, it’s heavier than a fully-laden Merlin. At maximum weight, more than 33 tonnes or 5½ Wildcats.

Inside, there’s space for up to 55 troops (more typically around three dozen), which is double the capacity of a Merlin Mk4 used by the Commando Helicopter Force.
And despite its size/weight, it can move – top speed 200mph, cruising at 170mph.

Both the Super Stallions and the Ospreys took advantage of Prince of Wales’ sprawling flight deck for their crews to earn day/night qualifications operating at sea.

The carrier’s F-35 trials are due to conclude this week, after which drone experimentation and more combined training with USMC Ospreys are lined up.

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