The CH-53A, the predecessor of America's largest helicopter today, the CH-53E, was first flown in October 1964 and began entering service in 1966. Within 16,000 lb of cargo capacity, this large all-weather-capable helicopter could carry two jeeps, 105 mm howitzer, or 38 fully-equipped combat troops, giving the Marines valuable mobility in Vietnam. The CH-53A has also demonstrated the impressive ability to perform loops and barrel rolls and in April 1968, a Marine Corps CH-53A made the first automatic terrain clearance flight in helicopter history. For shipboard stowage, the Sea Stallion's rotor blades and tail pylon folded hydraulically.
The helicopter displayed was the third CH-53A to roll off the production line. Entering service with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 363 in 1968, it was transferred to the Naval Air Development Center, Warminster, PA, in 1971 as a development aircraft, pioneering advanced technologies. Some of these technologies include Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) and the Helicopter Night Vision System (HNVS), both of which gained public attention for their role in Desert Strom. After being involved in research right up to the Gulf War, this helicopter was retired to the museum.