News sources have confirmed that the six Marines killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan were from the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay:
The helicopter, a CH-53D Sea Stallion from Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay, crashed Thursday in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand. The Marine unit, known as the Lucky Red Lions, deployed in August.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that the crash involved the same type of helicopter that crashed in Kaneʻohe bay in March 2011, killing one pilot. These Sea-Stallion helicopters have been involved in a number of other crashes, including a crash into an Okinawan university and a tragic crash in 2005 in Afghanistan:
All the Marine Corps’ Vietnam War-era Sea Stallion helicopters are based at Kaneohe Bay. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 out of Hawaii deployed to Afghanistan in August, replacing another Hawaii unit, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.
The twin-engined CH-53D first flew in 1964 and became operational in 1966, according to the Navy. In the mid-1990s the Marine Corps consolidated all its remaining Sea Stallions at Kaneohe.
It is now used as a medium-lift helicopter. The Marines in Hawaii have started to swap out some of the older two-engine CH-53Ds with the newer CH-53E Super Stallion, a more powerful, three-engine variant that fulfills a heavy-lift role.
At least five of an anticipated squadron complement of 12 Super Stallions are in Hawaii. Other older Sea Stallions are expected to be replaced in Hawaii by MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
The Marine Corps said in May that all of the CH-53Ds in three squadrons at Kaneohe Bay were expected to be retired from service in the next year and a half.
A squadron of 12 MV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Hawaii in 2014, the Corps said.
The Marines at Kaneohe Bay in 2005 paid a steep price in life in the crash of a CH-53 Super Stallion — the three-engine variant now in widespread use in the Corps — that went down in a sandstorm in western Iraq.
The crew of the California-based helicopter became disoriented on Jan. 26, 2005, when weather turned bad and mistakenly flew the transport chopper into the ground, investigators determined.
Of 31 killed, 26 Marines and a sailor were from Kaneohe Bay.
But the Osprey is another accident prone and extremely expensive program that many in Washington would like to see cut. The Okinawans in Takae are vehemently protesting the expansion of Osprey landing areas and training activities in northern Okinawa.
The Marine Corps is now completing an environmental impact statement for the expansion of helicopter and Osprey facilities and activities in Hawaiʻi.