A missing US Marine Corps (USMC) helicopter has been found in a remote stretch of California forest land, after the aircraft failed to arrive as planned from a training flight in the southwestern USA.

The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter was travelling from Creech AFB in Nevada to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California on 7 February. Five personnel were onboard when the rotorcraft went down, according to the USMC.

The fate of the crew and the state of the aircraft is not yet known. A search effort is underway involving military personnel, local law enforcement and Civil Air Patrol, but is being hampered by severe weather in the area.

CH-53E c US Navy

Source: US Navy

The heavy-lift Sikorsky CH-53E has been in service with the US Marine Corps since 1981, supporting amphibious assault and transport missions

The aircraft was assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which said on 7 February the Super Stallion had been located in California’s Pine Valley around 09:08 local time. Ground and aerial search teams have been deployed to locate the missing crew.

Heavy storms were predicted along the CH-53E’s flight route, with the US National Weather Service on 6 February calling for severe precipitation and possible thunderstorms across the region of Southern California.

The route between southern Nevada and San Diego crosses rugged mountains and some of the most remote desert in North America. Mountain elevations reach as high as 10,834ft (3,302m) above sea level.

The weather service reported snowfall in the mountains along the flight route in the early hours of 7 February.

The CH-53E has been in service with the USMC for decades, with the first example entering service in 1981. Sikorsky is currently producing the type’s successor – the CH-53K King Stallion – for the marine corps.

The Super Stallion’s primary mission is to support ship-to-shore amphibious assault operations, transporting personnel and equipment.

Each CH-53E carries a crew of four, according to a US Navy fact sheet, with the ability to transport as many as 55 passengers or an internal load of 14,500kg (32,000lb).

The USMC inventory carries 135 Super Stallions, according to Cirium fleets data.

The latest aviation mishap comes as the entire US military fleet of Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotors, of which the USMC is the largest operator in the world, is grounded for a flight safety review.

The Pentagon declared that indefinite pause in Osprey flight operations last December, following the deadly crash of a US Air Force MV-22 off the coast of Japan.

This is a developing story and will be updated. Last update on 7 February at 15:07.