Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific hosted a Sundown Ceremony for the SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter in Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73's hangar at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California, 11 May 2015. The SH-60B was replaced by the MH-60R, which is capable of executing the same missions as the SH-60B, but with significant advancements in mission systems that dramatically enhances its effectiveness. MH-60R aircraft carry out various missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, vertical replenishment, search and rescue, humanitarian relief and medical evacuation.
The SH-60B joined the operational fleet in 1985 when the aircraft made its initial deployment with a Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 43 detachment aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37). Since joining the fleet, the aircraft had completed more than 3.6 million flight hours in support of operations and training. The last active-duty SH-60B detachment, which was a detachment from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49 at Naval Air Station North Island, returned from a seven-month deployment aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) to the U.S. 4th and 3rd Fleet area of operations April 17.
The SH-60B was designed to operate as an integral fighting unit aboard specifically configured OLIVER HAZARD PERRY (FFG-7) class Guided Missile Frigates, SPRUANCE (DDG-963) class Destroyers, KIDD (DDG-993), class Guided Missile Destroyers and TICONDEROGA (CG-47) class Guided Missile Cruisers. What makes the SH-60B different from other helicopters (such as the Army's BLACKHAWK) was its capability to fully integrate with LAMPS capable warships. The Light Airborne Multipurpose System (LAMPS) was part of a complete weapon (ship/air) system designed to maintain part of the national defense program: to keep sea lanes open, and to protect high value military and commercial ships during a major conflict.
The SH-60B had a large suite of electronic sensors including radar, electronic support measures (ESM), forward looking infrared (FLIR), and passive/active underwater acoustic devices (sonobouys). All of this equipment was networked into a centralized tactical computer allowing the aircraft to act as a distant and elevated platform for sensors, remote classification/detection, and weapon delivery. All of the information gathered by aircraft sensors were passed back to the ship via a high speed digital radio signal. Personnel located in the ship's Combat Information Center (CIC) can not only view the "downlinked" information in real time, but can also control many of the helicopter's systems remotely. This system extended the ship's sensor, tactical control and attack capabilities while minimizing the risk of counterattack or detection by an enemy.
The SH-60B helicopter was configured specifically in response to the LAMPS requirement of the U.S. Navy. The easiest way to externally identify a LAMPS helicopter was the large cylindrical fairing under the nose, housing the 360-degree-a MAD, an electronic surveillance/ support measures (ESM) system, missile jamming equipment and missile plume detectors.
The LAMPS MK III was a major weapons system designed to dramatically increase the war fighting capabilities of the surface combatant in a multi-threat environment. LAMPS MK III embodied a ship and air integration concept in which an air vehicle was used as an extension of the surveillance and attack systems of the ship. The LAMPS MK III SH-60B Seahawk helicopter provided a distant and elevated platform for sensors (such as radar and electronic support measures) and the remote delivery of weapons (MK-46 & MK-50 Torpedoes, AGM-119B Penguin and AGM-114B/K Hellfire missiles). The ship provided tactical direction, acoustic sensor processing, redetection, and evaluation in the execution of its primary and secondary missions through a digital, real-time Data Link.
The LAMPS MK III system was designed to the Navy's sea control mission. In fulfilling the mission, LAMPS MK III encountered a threat that had many dimensions. The threat encompassed a hostile submarine fleet and missile-equipped surface ships. The system extended the search and attack capabilities of LAMPS MK III configured destroyer, frigate, and cruiser platforms,deploying helicopters directly from these ships.
The primary missions of the LAMPS MK III were those of ASW and ASUW. In an ASW mission, the aircraft was deployed from the parent ship to classify, localize, and potentially attack when a suspected threat had been detected by the ship's towed-array sonar, hull-mounted sonar, or by other internal or external sources. The ASW mission required the crew to track a submarine using sonobuoys. The sonobuoys were placed in patterns and provide the direction from which a sound was emanating underwater. The helicopter's crew could track and, if necessary, attack the sub utilizing a MK-46 or MK-50 torpedo.
LAMPS Mk III added improved electronics as well as greater range, and the Recovery, Assist, Securing, and Traversing (RAST) system for all-weather shipboard recovery. This aircraft "haul-down" system expanded LAMPS aircraft recovery to a sea-state Condition 5 (winds to 33 knots, and sea wave swells to 13 feet).
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