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SH-60B Detachment Demonstrates Versatility During Operation Unified Assistance

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050124-10
Release Date: 1/24/2005 2:02:00 PM

By Lt. j.g. Steven Dobesh, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadron 43, Det. 4 Public Affairs

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (NNS) -- During Operation Unified Assistance in January, Sailors from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadrons (HSL) 43 and 49 carried relief supplies to tsunami victims along the coast of Indonesia after reconfiguring their helicopters to carry more weight.

The SH-60B "Seahawk" aircraft flown by HSL-43 Det. 4 aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43), and HSL-49 Det. 2 aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), are designed primarily for anti-submarine and surface warfare missions. Because these missions require multiple sensors and weapons systems, such as radar, torpedoes and Hellfire missiles, the helicopters are usually too full and too heavy to carry cargo or conduct search and rescue missions.

Pilots, air crews and maintenance teams for the two detachments reconfigured their helicopters for the humanitarian mission by removing sonobuoy launchers and other sensor equipment. They removed 316 pounds of equipment, freeing up an additional 10 square feet of cargo space for food, water and evacuees.

"By reconfiguring our helicopters, the two detachments have proven the versatility of the SH-60B in providing a broad range of capabilities, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," said pilot Lt. Patrick Cliggett of HSL-43. "The SH-60B detachment will continue to be an important component of future expeditionary strike group operations."

Pilots for the detachments applied skills learned while landing on the decks of small, pitching ships to the daunting task of operating at undeveloped landing zones ashore. They flew 10-hour days during the operation, providing vital food and water to isolated Indonesian villages from ships stationed off the coast.

The detachments wrapped up their participation in the humanitarian mission in late January as Thach and Bunker Hill left Indonesia for another assignment. The ships are deployed as part of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, led by USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The strike group also comprises the amphibious ships USS Duluth (LPD 6) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47), as well as the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) and Coast Guard cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC 724). ESG 5 deployed from California Dec. 6 and is scheduled to return home this summer.

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