NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — It’s the last hop for the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter commonly known as the “Phrog.” The helicopter is set to retire and to be flown one last time by Reserve Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 774 on Aug. 1. The retirement ceremony will be held noon to 3 p.m. at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia.
The program transitioned to Specialized and Proven Aircraft Program Office (PMA-226) at Marine Corps Station Cherry Point in the early 90’s. Since that time, they have developed, tested and installed critical modifications to sustain the aircraft to retirement, explained Andy Wilkinson, the deputy program manager for PMA-226. These updates extended the aircraft’s lifecycle by 15 years, allowing it to be fundamental in the Marines Corps’ role in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wilkinson began his career in 1985 as a NAVAIR engineer when the CH-46 was in the sustainment phase of its lifecycle.
“The CH-46 has been on the front line in most every Marine Corps military action in the last 50 years putting troops on the enemy front lines, delivering critical supplies, rescuing wounded service members on the battle field and performing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in response to tragedies around the world,” he said with regard to PMA-226’s role with the H-46 community.
This veteran aircraft has honorably served the Navy and Marine Corps medium lift assault community for 50 years. Originally, it made its debut in 1964 as a commercial aircraft. However, its mission was converted to assault support, cargo and search and rescue roles to replace the H-34 helicopter in Vietnam.
Now the CH-46 Sea Knight will be replaced by the MV-22 Osprey, which will serve the Marine Corps in a similar capacity.
In a statement released by the Marine Corps about the transition, they said, “The CH-46 Sea Knight has faithfully served the Corps for more than half a century. HMM-774’s redesignation as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 774 marks the end of the H-46’s service in the Marine Corps, as well as its presence in the skies above Norfolk. The MV-22 Osprey, which has replaced the H-46, has transformed the way the Marine Corps conducts assault support.”
Once the finishing touches have been made to the new extension at the National Museum of the Marine Corps several years from now, the CH-46 helicopter 400 will permanently be displayed for viewers to admire as it sits wearing its traditional Vietnam-era paint scheme.
“PMA-226 has supported the mission by making improvements to the aircraft that ensured safe operations, improved capability, increased readiness and reduced operating costs,” said Wilkinson. “The H-46, and more importantly the Marines and Sailors that operate the Phrog will always have a special place in our hearts and it’s been an absolute honor for the entire team to support them.”
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