The 6514th Test Squadron of the Air Force Systems Command was activated May 1970, moved to Hill AFB in May 1971, as a detachment of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards AFB, California. The unit did a lot of remotely-piloted Firebee testing for Teledyne-Ryan. over the Utah Test and Training Range. To accomplish the launch and recovery of the RPVs, the 6514th operated two DC-130A/E’s and one or more CH-3’s for MARS retrieval.
Sometimes during summertime operations over the Utah desert the helicopter’s lifting ability would be sapped by the extreme heat and altitude, requiring that the drone be released in order to prevent the helicopter from crashing. In these cases the drones were usually damaged severely and only certain parts could be salvaged and reused.
Pictures are from the 6514th Test Squadron at Hill AFB in 1982-83.
Picture of H-53 Mid-Air Retrieval System (MARS) rigged and ready.
Picture of H-53 MARS approaching for the “catch” of an Air Launched Cruise Missle (ALCM) during testing.
Picture of H-53 MARS making the “catch” of the ALCM.
The Parachute System —
It was called an “Annular Ring” and was about 65 feet in diameter with a 13 foot engagement chute. It was much smaller than any of the AQM-34 series RPV’s chutes due too the limited space in the ALCM. There was no ground release, also due to the limited space. There was about 155 feet of load line from the apex to the MARS release mechanism. The Engagement Chute was about 30 feet above the main and connected with shroud lines all around, holding it in the middle of the large center opening of the main. However, it could still get squirrelly if the main was rocking.
H-53 pictures contributed by: Rich Blackwell
Thanks Rich !