Four Marines Killed in California Helicopter Crash

 In Military

Four Marines are presumed dead after the crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter on Tuesday afternoon. The helicopter was assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar, California. It was a “routine training mission,” a phrase we have heard too often.

The chopper went down at approximately 2:35 p.m. near Naval Air Facility El Centro on Tuesday afternoon, according to USNI. All four crew members are presumed dead, pending identification of remains. The names were not released until next of kin have been notified.

The crash site was listed as north of Plaster City.

Are Marine Aircraft Safe to Fly? Not really.

We have actually asked this question before, after numerous crashes involving Marine aircraft were reported world wide. USMC leadership has testified before Congress on several occasions that the fleet of Marine jets is 74% unable to fight. Even with the new finding from the Omnibus Bill, it will take some time before the fleet is up to par with new aircraft and replacement parts.

“At the end of the day, repairing old aircraft is not a long-term solution. Aircraft have limited airframe life—which should be viewed as a consumable. A brand new F/A-18F coming off the production line in St. Louis, Missouri, has a fatigue life of 6000-hours. That airframe life can be extended, but it is not indefinite. At some point, a new aircraft will be needed. Thus, the Navy—or any other aircraft operator—has to continually buy new aircraft to maintain its force strength as airframe life is consumed.” Dave Maumdar, National Interest.org

Too many crashes

In April of 2017, another Super Stallion from the 3rd MAW crashed in Arizona, but all five crew members survived. In October, another CH-53E Super Stallion crashed off Okinawa, and the crew was rescued. A Marine KC130T transport plane crashed in Mississippi in July of 2017, killing everyone aboard: 15 Marines and a Sailor. In 2016, the crash of two Marine Super Stallions off the coast of Hawaii killed 12 Marines. Also in 2016, two Marine F/A-18 Hornets collided off the coast of California…both pilots were rescued. But in July of that year, an F/A- 18C crashed near Twentynine Palms, killing the pilot.

None of those count the Marine F/A 18 that crashed in 2015 near the RAF base at Lakenheath, England. Or the Marine Osprey that crashed off the coast of Australia. Or two Marine aircraft that crashed in 2016 in different locations within two days.

Hopeful outlook

The Deputy Commandant for Marine Aviation, Lt Gen Steven Rudder,  has a hopeful outlook for 2018. It will still take a long time to bring the fleet up to full readiness.

“My four priorities for our aviation Marine Corps are simple.  First, we will
prepare to deploy to combat, and focus on readiness for combat. Second,
we will modernize our force with new aircraft and systems, continuing our
in‐stride rebuild, refit and reset of our force to put reliable aircraft on the
line and on the flight deck.   Concurrently with these two efforts, we will
support the maintainers, those experts who make our squadrons operate,
by providing them with the leadership, career paths, and incentives that
keep them on our team in order to retain and leverage their unique skills.
Finally, we will focus on MAGTF integration, providing the day and night
assault support and tactical aviation to a combined‐arms fight anywhere
in the world.  These priorities are the framework on which we will build
tomorrow’s force.” Lt General Steven R. Rudder

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