En route from Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay to their home base in Honduras on Friday morning, the American military briefly took over part of Owen Roberts International Airport on Thursday.
Six aircraft were parked on the apron – three UH-60 Black Hawk and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters with the U.S. Army and one C-130 Hercules transport aircraft with the U.S. Coast Guard.
The airborne armada represents some of the most durable and well-known aircraft in the U.S. arsenal.
The UH-60 Black Hawk is the army’s “front-line utility helicopter” used for air assault, air cavalry and aeromedical evacuation. Made famous in Hollywood’s 2002 “Black Hawk Down,” the aircraft carries 11 combat-loaded air assault troops, and it is capable of moving a 105-millimeter howitzer and 30 rounds of ammunition.
Made by Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft, the four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter has a top speed of 183 miles per hour, is 65 feet long and costs $21.3 million. The U.S. Army operates 2,300 of the aircraft, the largest fleet in the world.
The army introduced the Boeing-made CH-47 Chinook in the Vietnam War, and it has continued to be a workhorse, performing prolonged duty in Afghanistan.
The 33,000-lb twin-engine, heavy-lift helicopter is 99 feet long and has a top speed of 196 mph, costing US$38.5 million per unit.
Introduced by the army in 1954, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop transport aircraft used as a gunship in airborne assault and search and rescue missions, as well as for scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol, and aerial firefighting.
Robert Harris, airport operations manager for Owen Roberts International Airport at the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said the aircraft were the same “that deployed after the passage of Hurricane Irma, and are just returning to their home base now.”
The aircraft are scheduled to leave Cayman on Friday at 10 a.m., he said.
The airport is expecting three U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallions to arrive on Friday “with the same routing and same reasoning.”
Also built by Sikorsky, the CH-53 Sea Stallion is among the U.S. military’s largest and heaviest helicopters. The 99 foot, three-engine aircraft weighs 33,226 pounds and does minesweeping and heavy-lift duties for the Navy.