On a Steel Horse I Ride: A History of the MH-53 Pave Low Helicopters in War and Peace
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL AIR FORCE RESEARCH INST
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Pave Low. The term itself generates an image a dark, wispy night a low, pulsating rumble approaching from the distance. The rumble becomes a presence, a large helicopter that settles onto the ground amidst the deep darkness. Earnest men of determination spew forth from it. Heavily armed, they quickly set up to collect intelligence, kill enemy troops, rescue downed or isolated friendly personnel, or otherwise conduct a direct action mission. Mission complete, they just as quickly reassemble, reboard the aircraft, and then disappear into the consuming darkness. It is a powerful image a conjure, if you will that strikes fear into any enemy of the United States. But the conjure is real. It is a helicopter called the MH-53JM. That machine is the end result of the evolution of state-of-the-art avionics, communication, and navigation equipment crewed by highly motivated, enthusiastic, and smart young operators well steeped in the principles, heritage, and credo of special operations. It is the classic combination of men and machine. Those aircraft and Airmen were assigned to the US Air Force Special Operations Command AFSOC, America s specialized airpower . . . a step ahead in a changing world, delivering special operations power anytime, anywhere. 1 AFSOC controls a mixed fleet of both rotaryand fixed-wing aircraft to facilitate the fulfillment of that mission. However, the single aircraft that, in its day, has best epitomized that role is the Pave Low helicopter. It, perhaps more than any other aircraft, allowed the AFSOC to realize its purpose. But it was not always so. The aircraft themselves were revolutionary combinations of new, more powerful turbine engines with rotarywing aircraft to produce vastly increased lifting power. Conceptualized, built, and designated for simpler missions, they were immediately swept up into the long war in Southeast Asia.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics