A U.S. military helicopter carrying five Marines has been reported missing in Southern California. The CH-53E Super Stallion, known for its capabilities in adverse weather conditions, failed to arrive as scheduled at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
The helicopter was en route from Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, where the Marines participated in unit-level training exercises.
The aircraft’s disappearance has triggered a widespread search and rescue operation, involving the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar Air Station, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the Civil Air Patrol.
Efforts to locate the missing helicopter and its crew have been hampered by severe weather conditions, with heavy snowfall and dense cloud cover complicating the search in the rugged terrain of the Cleveland National Forest and surrounding areas.
The missing Marines were identified as members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The incident comes as Southern California faces a historic storm, with forecasts predicting significant snowfall in the region’s mountains and challenging weather conditions continuing to affect the area.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department informed CBS News that due to dense cloud cover on early Wednesday morning, the department’s helicopter could not be deployed to assist in the search effort.
The CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest and heaviest helicopter in the U.S. military arsenal, is designed to transport troops and equipment across difficult terrains and under adverse weather conditions. Its nickname, the “hurricane maker,” attests to the powerful downwash generated by its three engines.