The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is a heavy-lift helicopter operated by the United States military. As the Sikorsky S-80, it was developed from the CH-53 Sea Stallion, mainly by adding a third engine, adding a seventh blade to the main rotor, and canting the tail rotor 20°. It was built by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The less common MH-53E Sea Dragon fills the United States Navy’s need for long-range minesweeping or airborne mine countermeasures missions, and perform heavy-lift duties for the Navy. The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, which has new engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider aircraft cabin, is set to replace the CH-53E.
The CH-53 was the product of the U.S. Marines’ “Heavy Helicopter Experimental” (HH(X)) competition begun in 1962. Sikorsky’s S-65 was selected over Boeing Vertol’s modified CH-47 Chinook version. The prototype YCH-53A first flew on 14th October 1964. The helicopter was designated “CH-53A Sea Stallion” and delivery of production helicopters began in 1966. The first CH-53As were powered by two General Electric T64-GE-6 turboshaft engines with 2,850 shp (2,125 kW) and had a maximum gross weight of 46,000 lb (20,865 kg), including 20,000 lb (9,072 kg) in payload.
Variants of the original CH-53A Sea Stallion include the RH-53A/D, HH-53B/C, CH-53D, CH-53G, and MH-53H/J/M. The RH-53A and RH-53D were used by the US Navy for minesweeping. The CH-53D included a more powerful version of the General Electric T64 engine, used in all H-53 variants, and external fuel tanks. The CH-53G was a version of the CH-53D produced in West Germany for the German Army.
The U.S. Air Force’s HH-53B/C “Super Jolly Green Giant” were for special operations and combat rescue, and were first deployed during the Vietnam War. The Air Force’s MH-53H/J/M Pave Low helicopters were the last of the twin-engined H-53s, and were equipped with extensive avionics upgrades for all-weather operation.
In October 1967, the US Marine Corps issued a requirement for a helicopter with a lifting capacity 1.8 times that of the CH-53D that would fit on amphibious warfare ships. The US Navy and US Army were also seeking similar helicopters at the time. Before issue of the requirement, Sikorsky had been working on an enhancement to the CH-53D, under the company designation “S-80”, featuring a third turboshaft engine and a more powerful rotor system. Sikorsky proposed the S-80 design to the Marines in 1968. The Marines liked the idea, since it promised to deliver a good solution quickly, and funded development of a testbed helicopter for evaluation.
In 1970, against pressure by the US Defense Secretary to take the Boeing Vertol XCH-62 being developed for the Army, the Navy and Marines were able to show the Army’s helicopter was too large to operate on landing ships and were allowed to pursue their helicopter. Prototype testing investigated the addition of a third engine and a larger rotor system with a seventh blade in the early 1970s. In 1974, the initial YCH-53E first flew.
Changes on the CH-53E also include a stronger transmission and a fuselage stretched 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m). The main rotor blades were changed to a titanium-fiberglass composite. The tail configuration was also changed. The low-mounted, symmetrical, horizontal tail was replaced by a larger, vertical tail, and the tail rotor tilted from the vertical to provide some lift in hover while counteracting the main rotor torque. Also added was a new automatic flight control system. The digital flight control system prevented the pilot from overstressing the aircraft.
YCH-53E testing showed that it could lift 17.8 tons (to a 50-foot (15 m) wheel height), and without an external load, could reach 170 knots (310 km/h) at a 56,000 pound gross weight. This led to two preproduction aircraft and a static test article being ordered. At this time, the tail was redesigned to include a high-mounted, horizontal surface opposite the rotor with an inboard section perpendicular to the tail rotor then at the strut connection cants 20° to horizontal. This helps with tilt at high speed.
The initial production contract was awarded in 1978, and service introduction followed in February 1981. The first production CH-53E flew in December 1980. The US Navy acquired the CH-53E in small numbers for shipboard resupply. The Marines and Navy acquired a total of 177.
The Navy requested a version of the CH-53E for the airborne mine countermeasures role, designated “MH-53E Sea Dragon”. It has enlarged sponsons to provide substantially greater fuel storage and endurance. It also retained the in-flight refueling probe, and could be fitted with up to seven 300-US-gallon (1136-liter) ferry tanks internally. The MH-53E digital flight-control system includes features specifically designed to help tow minesweeping gear. The prototype MH-53E made its first flight on 23rd December 1981. MH-53E was used by the Navy beginning in 1986. The MH-53E is capable of in-flight refueling and can be refueled at hover.
Additionally, a number of MH-53E helicopters were exported to Japan as the S-80-M-1 for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The base-model CH-53E serves both the US Navy and Marines in the heavy-lift transport role. It is capable of lifting heavy equipment, including the eight-wheeled LAV-25 light armored vehicle and the M198 155 mm Howitzer with ammunition and crew. The Super Stallion can recover aircraft up to its size, which includes all Marine Corps aircraft except for the KC-130.
By 2017, the CH-53E reportedly required 40 maintenance hours per flight hour due to aging parts, lack of available new replacement parts, and the extension of the overall airframe lifetime.
Although dimensionally similar, the three-engined CH-53E Super Stallion is a much more powerful aircraft than the original Sikorsky S-65 twin-engined CH-53A Sea Stallion. The CH-53E also added a larger main rotor system with a seventh blade.
The CH-53E was designed for transporting up to 55 troops with the installation of seats along the cabin center line or 30,000 lb (13,610 kg) of cargo, and can carry externally slung loads up to 36,000 lb (16,330 kg). The CH-53E has incorporated the same crash-attenuating seats as the MV-22B to increase survivability of passengers, but reduced its troop transport capacity to 30. The Super Stallion has a cruise speed of 173 mph (278 km/h) and a range of 621 miles (1,000 km). The helicopter is fitted with a forward-extendable in-flight refueling probe. It can carry three machine guns, one at the starboard side crew door; one at the port window, just behind the copilot; and a firing position on the tail ramp. The CH-53E also has chaff-flare dispensers.
The MH-53E features enlarged side-mounted fuel sponsons, and is rigged for towing various minesweeping and hunting gear from above the dangerous naval mines. The Sea Dragon can be equipped for minesweeping and cargo and passenger transportation. Its digital flight-control system includes features specifically designed to help towing minesweeping gear.
In addition, the CH-53E has been upgraded to include the helicopter night vision system, improved .50 BMG (12.7 mm) GAU-21/A and M3P machine guns, and AAQ-29A forward-looking infrared imager.
The CH-53E and the MH-53E are the largest helicopters in the Western world, while the CH-53K now being developed will be even larger. They are fourth in the world to the Russian Mil Mi-26 Halo single-rotor helicopter and the enormous, twin transverse-rotored Mil V-12 Homer, which can lift more than 22 tons (20 tonnes) and 44 tons (40 tonnes), respectively and the Mi-26’s single-rotor predecessor Mil Mi-6, which has less payload (12 tonnes), but is bigger and has a higher MTOW at 42 tonnes.
The Super Stallion variant first entered service with the creation of Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 464 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. Two more squadrons were created at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California over the next several years, HMH-465 and HMH-466. In addition, one West Coast training squadron, HMT-301, was given Super Stallions as was one more East Coast squadron, HMH-772, out of a reserve base at NASJRB Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Since then, other Marine heavy-lift squadrons have retired their CH-53As and Ds, replacing them with Es.
The Marine Corps CH-53E had its first shipboard deployment in 1983 when four CH-53E helicopters from HMH-464 deployed aboard USS Iwo Jima as part of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (24th MAU). During this deployment, Marines were sent ashore in Beirut, Lebanon, as peace keepers, and established perimeters at and near the Beirut International Airport. On 23rd October 1983, a truck bomb detonated by terrorists destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing nearly 240 service members as they slept. CH-53E helicopters from the 24th MAU provided critical combat support during this operation.
In 1991, two CH-53Es, along with several CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, were sent to evacuate U.S. and foreign nationals from the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia—Operation Eastern Exit—as violence enveloped the city during the Somalian Civil War.
During Operation Desert Storm, MH-53E shipboard-based Sea Dragons were used for mineclearing operations in the Persian Gulf off Kuwait.
On 8th June 1995, Captain Scott O’Grady, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot shot down over Bosnia, was rescued by two CH-53Es.
On 26th October 2001, three CH-53Es aboard USS Peleliu and three CH-53Es aboard USS Bataan flew 550 miles (890 km) to secure the first land base in Afghanistan, Camp Rhino, with 1100 troops at its peak. This amphibious raid is the longest amphibious raid in history. The long-range capability of the CH-53Es enabled Marines to establish a southern base in Afghanistan, putting the war on the ground.
Super Stallions again played a major role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They were critical to moving supplies and ammunition to the most forward Marine units, and also assisted in moving casualties back to the rear for follow-on care. Marine CH-53Es and CH-46Es carried US Army Rangers and Special Operations troops in a mission to rescue captured Army Private Jessica Lynch on 1st April 2003.
Currently, about 150 CH-53E helicopters are in service with the Marines and another 28 MH-53Es are in service with the U.S Navy. The CH-53 requires 44 maintenance hours per flight hour. A flight hour costs about $20,000.
United States military designation for two Sikorsky S-65E (later S-80E) prototypes
CH-53E Super Stallion
United States military designation for the S-80E heavy lift transport variant for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 170 built.
MH-53E Sea Dragon
United States military designation for the S-80M mine-countermeasures variant for the United States Navy, 50 built
Proposed presidential transport variant, not built
Export variant of the heavy lift transport variant, not built
Export variant of the mine-countermeasures variant, 11 built for Japan; the last were retired in 2017.
Between 1969 and 1990, more than 200 servicemen were killed in accidents involving the CH-53A, CH-53D, and CH-53E.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon is the U.S. Navy’s helicopter with the highest accident rate, with 27 deaths from 1984 to 2008. During that time, its rate of class A mishaps, meaning serious damage or loss of life, was 5.96 per 100,000 flight hours, more than twice the Navy helicopter average of 2.26. An independent investigation reported that between 1984 and 2019, 132 people died in accidents on the Navy and Marine versions of this helicopter. A 2005 lawsuit alleged that since 1993, at least 16 in-flight fires or thermal incidents involved the number-two engine on Super Stallion helicopters. The suit claimed that proper changes were not made, nor were crews instructed on emergency techniques.
Sikorsky CH-53E Sea Dragon 1/72nd scale Panzerkampf models available from Flying Tigers
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Following their successful amphibious invasion of the Falkland Islands in April 1982, if the Argentinean government were hoping that the 8,000 mile distance between them and the British mainland would present them with an uncontested territorial victory, they had seriously underestimated the situation. Just one day after their troops had secured Port Stanley, the British Government announced they would be sending a powerful naval Task Force to re-take the Islands, built around the two aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, with their compliment of highly capable Sea Harrier FRS.1 jets.
The relatively small size of the Sea Harrier enabled the Fleet Air Arm to retain a fixed-wing fleet defender aircraft capability and armed with the latest AIM-9L Sidewinder air to air missile, the Sea Harrier was an exceptional aeroplane, but one which would be tested to the full if a diplomatic resolution to the Falklands situation could not be negotiated as the Task Force steamed south. With just 20 Sea Harrier FRS.1 aircraft onboard the two carriers which left Portsmouth on 5th April, their pilots knew they would be facing overwhelming odds if called into combat, however, they were well trained and extremely confident in both their own abilities and the fighting qualities of their unique aircraft.
As the powerful British naval Task Force left Portsmouth harbour bound for the South Atlantic on 5th April 1982, it only had a modest force of 20 Sea Harrier FRS.1 jets aboard the two aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible, which at that time were still wearing their respective FAA Squadron markings. In preparation for the coming air battles, all aircraft would be made ‘low visibility’ by having their white areas and all squadron markings overpainted during the voyage, using brushes on HMS Hermes and spraying equipment on HMS Invincible.
These aircraft would later be joined by a further eight Sea Harriers, which were initially being hastily prepared, having been either taken from storage or re-assigned from other duties, meeting up with the Task Force later at Ascension Island. Making its first flight on 15th December 1979, Sea Harrier FRS.1 XZ457 arrived aboard HMS Hermes for South Atlantic deployment on 2nd April 1982 and would soon lose her No.899 NAS identity, becoming ‘Black 14’ of the HMS Hermes Air Group. Once the Task Force had arrived in the South Atlantic, she would be used to deliver three delayed action 1,000lb bombs on the airfield at Goose Green, just hours after the RAF had bombed Port Stanley Airfield after mounting the first of their ‘Black Buck’ Vulcan raids.On the 21st May, when piloted by Lt. Clive Morrell, this Sea Harrier destroyed an Argentinean A4 Skyhawk with a Sidewinder missile and damaged a second using cannon fire from its ADEN gun pods. Three days later, Lt. Cdr. Andy Auld used XZ457 to destroy two Argentinean Israeli built IAI Daggers, again using the effective AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles it was equipped with. By the end of hostilities on 14th June 1982, Sea Harrier XZ457 had flown an impressive 66 operational sorties, dropped three 1000lb bombs, fired 680 rounds of 30mm cannon ammunition and fired three AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles. As the top scoring Sea Harrier aboard HMS Hermes, she returned to Portsmouth sporting victory profile stencils below her cockpit, on the port side of the fuselage – two IAI Daggers above an A4 Skyhawk. Sea Harriers from HMS Hermes flew 1,126 sorties during the Falklands Conflict and had an impressive 16 aerial victories to their name – Lt. Cdr. Andy Auld flew 62 combat missions and would have two of those victories credited to him.Later upgraded to FA2 standard, this historic aircraft is now one of the prized aviation possessions in the care of the Boscombe Down Aviation Museum, where she is now on display.
When an Argentinean scrap metal salvage team landed at a derelict whaling station on South Georgia in March 1982 and immediately ran up an Argentinean flag, little did they know that this relatively innocuous incident would spark one of the most serious international military confrontations of the post war years. A small British military force aboard HMS Endurance was dispatched from Port Stanley to remove the Argentinians, a move which would escalate the situation dramatically. On receipt of this information, the new political regime in Buenos Aires, keen to bolster nationalist fervour in the country, immediately put full invasion plans in place and on the morning of 2nd April 1982, a small force of commando troops landed on the Islands to be followed by a much larger amphibious force, far stronger than was needed to achieve their objective. Despite the valiant efforts of the small force of Royal Marines troops based on the Island, the Governor ordered them to cease firing at 09.25, fearing the intense fighting would put the lives of civilians at risk. With Argentinean forces now in control of the Islands, the task of moving in more troops, supplies and heavier equipment began in earnest, as military planners and government officials awaited the British response. They were hoping that possession of the Islands would give them a significant advantage and that a positive resolution for Argentina could be negotiated without the need for conflict, however, by the following day, they had their answer and knew what they would be facing. With the world now watching, the British Government announced that they would be sending a powerful naval Task Force to retake the Islands without delay and the South Atlantic was heading for conflict. As the South Atlantic erupted into conflict during April 1982, the need to effectively transport and supply troops in the battle zone was brought starkly into focus. The most effective aircraft for this task during the Falkland air war was the mighty Boeing CH-47 Chinook, with both British and Argentinean forces deploying examples of these helicopters to theatre, but with all but one of the British machines destroyed during the Exocet missile attack on the Atlantic Conveyor, the ship on which they were being transported. Once Argentinean forces had landed and secured the Islands, the two serviceable Chinooks they had available at that time were flown in to operate from Stanley Airport – AE-521 would be the harder working of the two aircraft, until it was destroyed on the ground by cannon fire from a Harrier jet, whilst AE-520, the aircraft modelled here, was apparently beset with persistent engine problems and used rarely. Following the surrender of Argentinean forces, Chinook AE-520 was discovered relatively intact on land behind the Governor’s residence and was later stripped of parts and sent back to the UK. Interestingly, the RAF’s famous ‘Bravo November’ Chinook which was the only British CH-47 to take part in the conflict, suffered damage to its port cockpit door during operational use and a replacement was fitted using one taken from the captured Argentinean machine.Later transported to RNAY Fleetlands in Hampshire, the captured Chinook was given a UK serial number and used as a ground instructional airframe, but that was not to be the final chapter in this fascinating story. Royal Air Force Chinook HC.2 ZA704 sustained significant damage conducting a run-on landing whilst on exercise, with its rear rotors striking the ground and ripping off the aft transmission and rear rotor stack. Rather than scrap the aircraft, it was sent to Fleetlands, where engineers repaired ZA704 using components from the captured former Argentinean Chinook AE-520. With the aircraft eventually returning to squadron service, it is fascinating to think that parts from this captured Argentinean Falklands War Chinook continued flying on two serving RAF machines long after the end of the conflict.
The military airfield at Rattlesden in Suffolk was constructed for American use during 1942 and was classified as an ‘A’ standard airfield. With three concrete runways and 50 dispersed aircraft hardstanding points, it was initially intended for use by twin engined Martin B-26 Marauder bombers, but when it was later felt that these aircraft would be better suited flying from bases further south, Rattlesden became home for the soon to arrive B-17s of the 447th Bombardment Group. The first bombing mission undertaken by aircraft of the 447th took place on Christmas Eve 1943, when their B-17s were sent to flatten a suspected V-1 flying bomb site near Saint Omer, a mission which would set the tone for a busy few months to come. Fully committed to the campaign in preparation for D-Day, the 447th would be sent against targets such as airfields, rail marshalling yards, suspected rocket sites, submarine pens and naval installations across France, Belgium and into Germany itself, interspersed with joining other units in concentrated attacks against city targets. On D-Day itself, the unit bombed the beachhead sectors in advance of the landings, following pathfinder aircraft for target identification.The weeks following D-Day saw no let-up in mission activity for the Fortresses of the 447th, as they undertook almost daily missions in support numerous strategic objectives, which included the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity. They flew their final combat mission on 21st April 1945, targeting a marshalling yard at Ingolstadt in Germany and by the summer of the same year, all serviceable aircraft were flown back to the US, where the 708th Bomb Squadron was inactivated on 7th November 1945.One of the most enduring features of US air operations from Britain during the Second World War was their use of nose artwork to adorn many of their combat aircraft, a practice which was generally frowned upon by RAF hierarchy, but seemingly ignored by their American counterparts. The adoption of nose artwork is thought to have taken many forms, from being a good luck charm for the crew or highly visible warning to enemy fighter pilots to leave them alone, if they know what’s good for them. They could also have been a simple reminder of home, which must have seemed such a long way away during the savage air fighting at this stage of the war. Whatever the reason for applying it, the practice ensured that some of these aircraft and the men who flew them, will be remembered for many generations to come. Boeing B-17G-70-BO serial number 43-37756 was built at Boeing’s Seattle factory in the early spring of 1944 and delivered to the USAAF at Dow Field, Maine on 18th May the same year. She was assigned to the 708th Bomb Squadron, 447th Bomb Group and later flown to Rattlesden, Suffolk, England, where she would join the rest of her unit already engaged in combat. Flying her first combat mission on 20th June 1944, she would be in the air again the following day, this time on a raid to the Big One – Berlin, in the hands of a different crew. This crew had recently transferred to Rattlesden from the 15th Air Force, flying bombing missions from bases in Italy. As this was quite unusual for base personnel, on landing back following the Berlin mission, they were asked by members of the ground crew how did it compare to flying missions from the opposite side of Europe and they replied, ‘It was like a ‘Milk Run’, obviously a little tongue in cheek, as this was a colloquialism for a mission which was without incident and one which incurred no casualties. This off the cuff remark would stay with this particular Flying Fortress from that point onwards and 43-37756 would later benefit from the addition of some impressive and rather unique artwork. She would be adorned with a friendly looking cartoon cow and the words Milk and Wagon painted either side of it. For every successful mission flown, a new milk bottle would be added to the scoreboard on the portside nose of the bomber, with the white bottles painted over a black background, so they could be more easily seen. If the addition of this nose artwork was intended to bring the crew luck, then this was a shrewd move, as ‘Milk Wagon’ was definitely seen as being a lucky ship. She would eventually set a record for a Fortress in the 447th Bomb Group, as she racked up no fewer than 129 missions without suffering a single abort due to mechanical issues, testament not only to the strength of the B-17, but also the ground crews who kept her in the air. Following the end of hostilities, Milk Wagon was flown back to the US and despite her impressive war record and distinctive nose artwork, was sent to Kingman Storage Depot 41 in the Arizona desert for scrapping, a fate which awaited so many former wartime military aircraft.
Although the Boulton Paul Defiant fought alongside Spitfires and Hurricanes during the air battles above the Dunkirk evacuation beaches and the Battle of Britain which followed, it enjoys nothing of the widespread public recognition its two contemporaries could boast. Surprisingly, the Defiant actually made its first flight and RAF squadron introduction quite some time after both the Hurricane and Spitfire, something which may explain its limited success when used in the day fighter role during WWII. The idea behind the Defiants’ unusual design came from inter-war thinking that future air combat would be fought by fast, heavily armed bomber formations, which would not need the protection of dedicated fighter cover. In order to combat this, the Defiant, equipped with its quad dorsal turret mounted machine gun armament, could engage these bombers with a beam attack, similar to how battleships might engage, or from below, where the bomber was most vulnerable and where the fighter could concentrate the firepower of its four .303 in Browning machine guns. This same thinking also dictated that this new bomber defence fighter would not need forward firing armament, as the high closing speed of modern monoplane fighters would render frontal attacks useless, so the Defiant incredibly ended up being a fighter aircraft with no forward firing armament at all. Having a similar profile to the Hawker Hurricane which preceded it into service, the Defiant initially scored some significant combat successes against Luftwaffe aircraft, even the much vaunted Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Attacking the Defiant as they would a Hurricane, Messerschmitt pilots soon realised their mistake, as they lined up to press home their flank attacks, only to be met by a hail of bullets. The shock of this misidentification was soon relayed to other pilots and the Defiant would soon become easy prey for the highly manoeuvrable Messerschmitts, which would attack the turret fighter from the front or from below, where the British aircraft simply could not defend itself. Withdrawn from the day fighter role during the Battle of Britain, the Defiant would go on to prove itself a more than capable nightfighter, where its crews helped to establish Britain’s fledgling night fighter force, claiming many Luftwaffe victims in the process. Nocturnal Defiants were later equipped with airborne interception radar equipment to increase their effectiveness and later still, used to carry powerful electronic countermeasures equipment, as the air war took something of a clandestine turn. Ultimately though, continued development of the Luftwaffe’s bomber force saw the Defiant becoming increasingly ineffective, with the type finally being withdrawn to secondary roles from 1942 onwards. Despite this, the Boulton Paul Defiant definitely remains one of the more interesting aircraft of the Second World War. For a crew to attain the coveted status of air ‘Ace’ whilst operating the Boulton Paul Defiant turret fighter, they must have been an incredibly cohesive team, something which Flying Officer Frederick Desmond ‘Hawkeye’ Hughes and his gunner Sergeant F Gash most definitely were. During the height of the Battle of Britain, the pair claimed two Dornier Do17 bombers destroyed during the same sortie, however, these would prove to be their only successes during daylight operations. With the Defiant becoming increasingly vulnerable to enemy fighter attack, the type was transferred to night defence duties, where it was to prove much more successful. Searching for targets in the dark, an extra pair of eyes and the flexible firing positions afforded by the powered turret soon began to pay dividends, as German night raiders were intercepted and destroyed with increasing regularity. Boulton Paul Defiant N1801 was the first aircraft specifically allocated to pilot Desmond Hughes and as such, he was allowed to embellish it with his own personal markings. A son of the small coastal town of Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland, Hughes painted the Red Hand of Ulster in a white shield on his aircraft’s port-side engine cowling, which also sported five victory markings painted under the canopy. As one of the five RAF squadrons funded by India’s Madras Presidency, N1801 proudly marked this association by also carrying the name ‘Coimbatore II’ on the engine cowling, making this a highly distinctive night fighter. From the memoirs of Desmond Hughes, he describes how he used this aircraft until the squadron upgraded to the more powerful Defiant Mk.II, but how N1801 was extremely reliable, with its Merlin engine never so much as coughing at him during operation. Frederick Desmond Hughes would go on to post further success in the night air war flying Beaufighters and Mosquitos, eventually ending the war as one of the RAF’s most decorated airmen and able to boast a victory tally of 18.5 enemy aircraft destroyed. Adding further interest to the exploits of this exceptional airman, another story associated with Hughes is that he was one of the first WWII airmen to take his pet dog on an operational sortie with him. His beloved mongrel ‘Scruffy’ was dressed in flying overalls for warmth during his unusual trip and is thought to have enjoyed at least one night sortie in an RAF Beaufighter.
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