Military Wiki
CH-54 Tarhe
A CH-54A carrying a parachute bomb
Role Heavy-lift cargo helicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
First flight 9 May 1962
Retired 1991
Status retired
Primary user United States Army
Number built 105
Variants S-64 Skycrane

A CH-54A Tarhe carrying 2 UH-1 Hueys.

CH-54B carrying an M551 Sheridan tank, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama

The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe is a twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter designed by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Army. It is named after Tarhe (whose nickname was "The Crane"), an 18th-century chief of the Wyandot Indian tribe.[1] The civil version is the S-64 Skycrane.


Initial work on the Sikorsky "sky-crane" helicopters began in 1958 with the piston-engined Sikorsky S-60.

The first flight of the turboshaft-powered S-64 Skycrane was 9 May 1962,[2] with the United States Army eventually purchasing 105, designating them CH-54. Used in Vietnam for transport and downed-aircraft retrieval, it was highly successful, thanks to the 'adaptable' nature of the module system first conceived by General James M. Gavin in his book Airborne Warfare in 1947. Early pods could not carry troops and external sling-loads at the same time. Advanced pods for the CH-54 could carry troops and cargo underslung at the same time but were not purchased. The Skycrane can not only hold its cargo up and tight against its center spine to lessen drag and eliminate the pendulum effect when flying forward, it can winch vehicles up and down from a hovering position, so the helicopter does not need to land. Due to budget cuts the Heavy Lift Helicopter (HLH) program was canceled and the CH-54s not upgraded with larger engines. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook gradually supplemented it in combat and eventually replaced it in Regular Army aviation units, although CH-54 Skycranes remained in Army National Guard service until the early 1990s. The Soviet Union also created much larger crane helicopters with a similar skeletal design.

Today, Erickson Air-Crane of Central Point, Oregon operates the largest fleet of S-64 helicopters in the world under the name Erickson S-64 Aircrane, which can be equipped with water-dropping equipment (some also have foam/gel capability) for firefighting duties worldwide. After obtaining the type certificate and manufacturing rights in 1992, Erickson remains the manufacturer and world's largest operator of S-64s.


Pre-production aircraft, six built.[3]
Production model powered by two 4,500 shp (3,400 kW) Pratt & Whitney T73-P-1 turboshafts, 54 built.[3]
Heavier version of the CH-54A with two 4,800 shp (3,600 kW) T-73-P-700 turboshafts and twin-wheeled main undercarriage, 37 built.[3]


United States


A large number of surviving airframes exist in flyable condition as well as in museum collections worldwide.

Specifications (CH-54B)

Orthographically projected diagram of the Sikorsky CH-54B Tarhe.

Sikorsky Skycrane CH-54B c.jpg

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Payload: 20,000 lb (9,072 kg)
  • Length: 88 ft 6 in (26.97 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 72 ft 0 in (21.95 m)
  • Height: 25 ft 5 in (7.75 m)
  • Disc area: 4071.5 ft² (378.24 m²)
  • Empty weight: 19,800 lb (8,980 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 47,000 lb (21,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney T73-P-700 turboshaft engines, 4,800 shp (3,580 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 130 kn (150 mph, 240 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 100 kn (115 mph, 185 km/h)
  • Range: 200 NM (230 mi, 370 km)
  • Service ceiling: 18,330 ft (5,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,330 ft/min (6.75 m/s)

See also


  • Francillon, René J. (Spring 1991). "The Army Guard's Weightlifter". pp. 36–41. 
  • Harding, Stephen (1990). U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-102-8. 
  • Taylor, John W. R. (1976). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1976–77. London: Jane's Yearbooks. ISBN 0-354-00538-3. 

External links

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