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Combining Naval Aviation's Helicopter Communities: The First Step
CSC 1992
Title:  Combining Naval Aviation's Helicopter Communities:
The First Step
Author:	Lieutenant Commander A. R. MacConnell,
United States Navy
Thesis:  In the current climate of declining military
budgets, mandated personnel reductions, and shrinking
resources, naval aviation can no longer afford the luxury of
maintaining two separate and distinct infrastructures to
support the HS and HSL MK III helicopter communities.  This
paper proposes combining these two communities, which will
increase our carrier battle group warfighting capabilities,
maintain current helicopter command opportunity, reduce
overhead operating costs, and provide for more efficient use
of our limited manpower assets.
Discussion:  The HS and HSL MK III communities have
invested considerable effort to convince navy decision makers
that because of their different missions and operating
environments, they should remain two separate entities.  The
introduction of the technologically advanced SH-6OF aircraft
negates most of these old arguments.  A new squadron
structure is proposed and scrutinized with potential
improvements in operational flexibility, aircraft
availability; and significant overhead cost savings in
manpower, training, and logistics/maintenance, identified.
The impact this new structure will have on the navy's
helicopter community is reviewed and is followed by the
summary which includes challenges for the future in
implementing this controversial proposal.
In the current climate of declining military budgets,
mandated personnel reductions, and shrinking resources,
naval aviation can no longer afford the luxury of
maintaining two separate and distinct infrastructures to
support the HS and HSL MK III communities.  This paper
proposes combining these two communities, which will
increase our carrier battle group warfighting capabilities,
maintain current helicopter command opportunity, reduce
overhead operating costs, and provide for more efficient use
of our limited manpower assets.
I.	Combining the HS and HSL MK III communities
II.	Debunking the mission and environment myths
	A.	Missions
		1.	Antisubmarine warfare
		2.	Antiship surveillance and targeting
		3.	Search and rescue, combat search
			and rescue
	B.	Operating Environment
		1.	"Small boy" operations
		2.	Carrier operations
III.	Proposed new structure
IV.	Operational Impact
 	A.	Increased operational flexibility
	B.	Increased aircraft availability
	C.	Increased CVBG coordination and understanding
V.	Reduced overhead costs
	A.	Manpower savings
	B.	Training pipeline savings
	C.	Logistics/maintenance savings
VI.	Community Impact
VII.	Future challenges
      In the current climate of declining military budgets,
mandated personnel reductions, and shrinking resources,
naval aviation can no longer afford the luxury of
maintaining two separate and distinct infrastructures
(administrative, command, training, and logistic) to support
the Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) and Helicopter
Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) communities.  From FY
1990 through FY 1997 naval aviation is projected to see its
number of aircraft carriers reduced from 15 to 12, its
carrier air wings reduced from 13 to 11, and the number of
fixed-wing, shore-based patrol squadrons (P-3) reduced from
24 to 18.  The total number of personnel billets assigned to
naval aviation will be reduced from approximately 164,000 to
141,500. (A total of 22,500 deleted billets, 2,500 officer
and 20,000 enlisted).  A prudent look to the future reveals
a likely probability that these numbers will go down
further.1  Throughout this draw down, VADM R. L. Dunleavy,
Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare), OP-05,
has repeatedly asked for better, more innovative and
efficient ways to accomplish the missions of naval
aviation.2  This paper proposes combining the HS and HSL
MK III helicopter communities which, I intend to show, will
increase our carrier battle group (CVBG) warfighting
capabilities, maintain current helicopter command
opportunity, reduce overhead operating costs, and provide
for more efficient use of our limited manpower assets.
      One bright spot for Naval Aviation during this draw
down has been the introduction of the Sikorsky SH-60F
helicopter as the HS mission replacement for the venerable
SH-3H Sikorsky Sea King.  With this introduction of the
SH-60F the HS and HSL MK III communities have, for the first
time, been equipped with essentially the same airframe.
Because of the similarities of airframes and assigned
missions, it only makes sense to investigate whether it
would be advantageous to combine these two communities.
      CAPT George Galdorisi, in his Fall '91 Rotor Review
article "Strike Force Air Power For The Twenty-First
Century", calls for a new squadron structure to incorporate
the missions of HS, HSL, and HC (Helicopter Combat Vertical
Replenishment Squadron) communities.3  Since my personal
experience is limited to the HS and HSL MK III communities,
I feel unqualified to discuss the issues involved in
incorporating the HC community into his proposed squadron.
However, I submit that combining HS and HSL MK III squadrons
is the most logical first step given the missions assigned:
Inner/Outer Zone ASW, ASST, SAR, and Strike Rescue.  His
proposal to include the HC community into this combined
structure should be deferred until resolution of what the
follow-on aircraft to the HC mission CH-46D helicopter will
           Debunking the Mission/Environment Myths
      The idea of combining these two antisubmarine warfare
communities usually elicits cries of horror and dismay from
both sides of the aisle, followed by mutual denouncement of
the messenger as being disloyal, (bordering on traitorous)
to his assigned community.  The reason for this sometimes
less than rational reaction is the assumption that any
combining of communities will naturally result in decreased
number of fiefdoms, meaning fewer command opportunities.
Having functioned for years as a neglected "second class"
partner within Naval Aviation (with jet and prop communities
being the "first class" partners), the U.S. Navy helicopter
community has jealously guarded against any encroachment
on its perceived "niche" in Naval Aviation.  Historically, both
the HS and HSL communities have lived in fear of being
"swallowed up" by the other.  Both communities invested
considerable time and effort in protecting their independent
"rice bowls" by establishing themselves as having unique
missions and different operating environments.  For example,
the HS community performs the "inner zone" ASW mission using
primarily active/passive dipping sonar while the HSL
community performs "outer zone" ASW using primarily passive
sonobuoys in conjunction with a surface combatant's acoustic
tail.  HS operates off a carrier (CV) conducting planeguard
(SAR), logistic, and Strike Rescue (CSAR) missions in
addition to its inner zone role.  HSL operates off frigates,
destroyers, and cruisers ("small boy" decks) which require
more refined aviation skills to successfully operate in the
small deck environment.  Both communities would have one
believe that the training required to successfully
accomplish these missions is so specialized, given the
distinct operating environments, as to make it impossible to
contemplate combining them.  Having spent my formative years
in the HS community (HS-1, and HS-9, from April 1979 through
July 1982), and my developmental years in the HSL MK III
community (HSL-41, HSL-40, and HSL-44, from August 1982
through April 1989), I believe these views are no longer
valid in this era of restricted budgets, limited resources,
and the advent of a common H-60 airframe to conduct both the
HS and HSL MK III missions.  Why?  Simply put, the
technological advances of the H-60 aircraft have voided all
the old arguments for keeping the communities apart,
especially with the decision to retrofit the SH-60B with a
dipping sonar.  Let us investigate the arguments from two
areas, missions and operating environment.
      Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW).  HS has always claimed
preeminence in conducting inner zone ASW while HSL has
claimed preeminence in conducting outer zone ASW.  It may be
submitted that the late 1950's/early 1960's technological
limitations of both the H-2 (HSL MK I aircraft) and H-3
caused this unnatural division of the battle group ASW
zone.  I have always believed that ASW is ASW, whether
conducted in the inner or outer zone, or using passive or
active sensors.  Though this may be a rather simplistic
view, on an elementary level, ASW simply involves locating,
tracking and ultimately neutralizing hostile submarines.
All the techniques involved to accomplish this mission,
including the use of both passive and active sensors, are
part of the repertoire of all U.S. Navy ASW trained
personnel.  Therefore, proper application and execution of
ASW doctrine in the inner or outer zone is of no geographic
consequence.  The specific choice to use passive or active
sensors is usually a function of the battle group
commander's inclination toward the underwater threat, and is
reflected in his emission control (EMCON) posture.  HS was
given the conduct of inner zone defense simply because the
H-3 does not have the range, speed, nor navigational
equipment to allow it to operate much further than 50-75
miles from the carrier.  The H-3 was equipped with a dipping
sonar because it was large enough and stable enough to carry
the additional weight and successfully employ it in almost
all meteorological conditions.  HSL was similarly bequeathed
the outer zone guardian because that is where their
helicopters were located - on "smallboys" in screen posi-
tions at a considerable distance (by helicopter standards)
from the carrier.  The H-2 was equipped with sonobuoys
because it had neither the size nor aircraft stability to
even marginally employ a dipping sonar.  Because the SH-60B
was designed to augment the HSL MK I capability, it too was
only equipped with sonobuoys as its primary ASW sensor.
      With the acknowledged change in the ASW threat
requiring enhanced active sensor capability to locate and
destroy a new generation of markedly quieter submarines, not
to mention the growing potential menace of third-world
diesel boats, both the SH-60B and SH-60F are programmed to
have dipping sonar capability.  The SH-60F not only has
significantly greater sonobuoy processing capability than
the SH-3H, it has the speed, endurance and navigational
systems which will allow it to operate at a much greater
range from the carrier.  With the use of airframes that
possess very similar ASW prosecution systems and on station
capabilities, where does one now draw the line on which
community should conduct inner or outer zone ASW?  It is my
contention that there really isn't a difference and both
communities will be able to conduct ASW equally as well in
either the inner or outer zone.
      Antiship Surveillance and Targeting (ASST).  The H-2
provided HSL MK I ships a limited ASST capability with their
LN-66 radar.  The SH-60B has greatly multiplied the ASST
capabilities of the surface fleet with its AN/APS-124 radar
and AN/ARQ-45 data link system.  This increased capability
has resulted in HSL MK III having dual primary missions of
ASW and ASST.  So far, the SH-60B is uniquely capable to
conduct the ASST mission, and I concede this as a point to
the HSL MK III community in its argument to remain separate
from HS.  However, learning how to conduct the ASST mission
takes a minimum number of training days/events to ensure
proficiency, and can easily be included into a combined
Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) syllabus - even for first
tour aviators.
      Search and Rescue (SAR) and Combat SAR (CSAR).  These
missions have always received greater emphasis in the HS
community and the H-3 was better than the H-2 in
accomplishing these missions.  However, with the advent of
the common airframe, neither community has aircraft
preeminence.  With appropriate FRS and squadron level
emphasis and training, both communities can successfully
accomplish this mission and the battle group commander will
have at least double the normal rescue assets when he sails
into harm's way.
Operating Environment
      HSL operates off "smallboys".  HSL has always claimed
that it was harder to fly on and off a "smallboy" than a
carrier, thus they needed (and had) better pilots.  While
this ma  have had some validity with the H-2 airframe, (I do
not subscribe to this theory), it is definitely not
applicable in  the H-60 airframe.  Of the 100-150 helicopter
pilots who transitioned to HSL MK III from the HC, HS, HM
and USMC helicopter communities, none were prevented from
pursuing an HSL MK III career because he could not operate
the SH-60B on and off the "smallboys".
      HS operates off carriers.  The HS community asserts
that operating in a carrier environment takes additional
training and expertise.  HSL pilots, in general, have never
felt comfortable operating in CV airspace.  I believe this
phenomena is simply a function of familiarity with
established procedures and can easily be over come with very
few days operating on/off the CV.
      Therefore, in today's CVBG flying environment, all
H-60 pilots are capable of, and should be proficient in,
operating, day and night, off any aviation capable ship in
the U.S. Navy inventory.
	What Should The New Structure Look Like?
      I believe the common H-60 airframe, similarity of
assigned missions, and ability of any naval helicopter pilot
to operate the H-60 off any aviation capable ship, demands
that we combine the HS and HSL MK III communities.  This
combined squadron structure will decrease our overhead
operating costs and increase our operational impact in
support of naval aviation's mission.  The most difficult
question is: How should we do it?
      The key to combining the HS and HSL MK III communities
is realizing that they are all carrier battle group assets
and as such, should be part of the carrier air wing (CVW).
HSL, since its inception, has considered itself a separate
entity and has operated independently from CVW control or
direction.  Because HSL has been largely neglected by the
carrier air wing, battle groups have never made optimum use
of all assigned aviation assets.  A combined squadron
structure will ensure maximum use of limited assets, and the
CVBG will achieve a synergistic affect when employing its
helicopters.  This new squadron structure should be equipped
with eight or nine aircraft; three SH-60F's, one HH-60H, and
four or five SH-60B's.  Two of these squadrons should be
attached to each carrier air wing.  This will allow us to
maintain the standard CV complement of six SH-60F's and two
HH-60H's while supporting 4 to 5 one-plane and 2 two-plane
detachments in the battle group.  This recommendation will
probably cause heart palpitations throughout the fleet,
especially from our fixed-wing brethren.  The most obvious
problem with this recommendation is where do we put an extra
squadron on the CV?  There are precedents set for having two
squadrons of the same type aircraft operate off the same
carrier. The CV's attack and fighter squadrons currently
operate with two squadrons per carrier.  It is a given that
the CV is a very crowded ship, and extra space for another
squadron infrastructure is severely limited.  However, the
total number of extra personnel assigned to the carrier
would be minimal and the details of allocating work spaces,
admin spaces, and squadron ready rooms could be worked out
once it is realized that the ships we would support with
detachments already have designated spaces for personnel,
maintenance, and parts/logistic support.
      Having briefly describing how the new HS_ structure
should be integrated into a carrier battle group, let me
move on to the two areas where I think naval aviation can
benefit from combining the HS and HSL MK III communities;
increased operational flexibility and reduced overhead
         	     Operational Impact
      By combining the HS and HSL squadrons into one entity,
and placing two squadrons on a CV, the battle group
commander will have, for the first time, a real Helicopter
Element Coordinator (HEC) embarked.  The HSL community has
lived and operated for years without the benefit of anyone
on the CVBG staff who really knows how to employ them.
Historically, HSL Detachments have been tasked by Destroyer
Squadron (DESRON) staffs and individual ship commanding
officers (CO's).  Conversely, HS squadrons have been tasked
by the CV and carrier air wing commander (CAG).  While this
has not resulted in any serious degradation of overall
battle group capabilities, it has not resulted in getting
the maximum benefit from operating these two airframes in a
coordinated/mutually supporting fashion.  By having squadron
commanders, on the CV, who really know the environment,
capabilities, limitations, and personnel involved, real
operational benefits will accrue.
      Increased flexibility.  By knowing all the detachment
officers-in-charge and ship commanding officers, the HS_
squadron commanders will find it much easier to re-configure
the CVBG's ship/helicopter loading for specific mission
tasking.  CSAR aircraft (HH-60H) can be quickly forward
deployed aboard picket ships in support of CV strike
missions.  SH-60F's can be swapped out for SH-60B's for
active sonar sweeps of choke points, far ahead of battle
group passage.  Multiple combinations of H's, F's, and B's
can be detached aboard two-aircraft configured "smallboys"
depending on the mission.  With enough "smallboy" decks, you
could temporarily move the majority of your helicopters off
the CV for flex-deck combat operations.  The possibilities
are limited only by the imagination of the HS_ squadron
CO's.  The greatest benefit to the CVBG, will be having the
right helicopter assets at the right place, operating
together to accomplish the assigned mission.
      Increased availability.  The operational availability
of the SH-60B, SH-60F, and HH-60H has surpassed all
expectations.  The aircraft seem to keep flying, no matter
how many flight hours we put on them.  While we have no
reason to believe this will change, we could do even better
if all the CVBG aircraft maintenance was being controlled in
a central location.  For example, detachment aircraft major
phase inspections could be scheduled for completion aboard
the CV, with a replacement aircraft transferred to the
smallboy for continued operations.  This type of
coordination will ensure having aircraft available for all
      Increased Battle Group Coordination/Understanding.
It has been my experience that personnel operating from
carriers have very limited knowledge of what the "smallboys"
are doing, and vice-versa.  By having carrier aviators
operating off "smallboys", and "smallboy" aviators operating
off carriers, we will increase our fleet wide knowledge of
our overall capabilities and limitations.  These
cross-pollinated aviators would become conduits for
developing better procedures, tactics, and operational
		Reduced Overhead Costs
      As shown in figure (1), substantial manpower savings
can be realized by combining the HS and HSL MK III
communities.  While the numbers are not exact, and manpower
specialists will surely contest the computations used to
derive the proposed structure, the potential to reduce 149
officer and 1,056 enlisted billets warrants further study.
Additional billet savings would be realized by combining the
east coast HS and HSL wings, (COMHSWING ONE and
Click here to view image
staff positions throughout COMNAVAIRLANT, COMNAVAIRPAC,
COMNAVAIRSYSCOM, and CNO.  The two most alluring aspects of
figure (1) are the ability to maintain the same operational
capability, and maintain the current number of helicopter
command opportunities.  It must be noted that this increase
of command opportunity will remain only so long as naval
aviation can hold on to 11 carrier airwings (CVW).  With
each CVW reduction, two squadrons would be lost.  However,
the capability to continue deploying the same number of
detachments (80) could be maintained by transferring the
detachment billets to the remaining HS_ squadrons.  This
gives the navy increased flexibility even while our numbers
continue to decrease.
      The current training pipeline, with four fleet
replacement squadrons (FRS), one on each coast for each
community, can easily be reduced.  While there will not be a
complete two squadrons worth of savings in personnel,
aircraft, and equipment, the savings would be substantial.
Combining the FRS squadrons on the west coast would be much
easier than on the east coast because they are collocated at
NAS North Island.  The east coast FRS's are located at NAS
Mayport (HSL) and NAS Jacksonville (HS).  Combining them
would cause an initial out lay of funds to move trainers and
equipment, however, long term savings would eventually cover
the initial costs.  Adjustments would have to be made to the
different syllabi to include training in the different
models of aircraft, and in operating the different sensor
systems.  However, the commonality of aircraft and systems
will not make this as daunting a proposition as it seems.
      Included in the combining of the FRS's would be the
combining of the four separate fleet replacement aviation
maintenance personnel (FRAMP) departments.  This will result
in additional savings in instructors, training devices and
buildings required to conduct training.  Additionally, with
a potential reduction of 1,056 enlisted billets, further
savings will be realized with decreased recruitment and
entry level training requirements.
      As seen in the command structure and training
pipeline, HS and HSL MK III require two separate
infrastructures.  This holds true for logistic and
maintenance (L&M) support.  All higher staffs must provide
separate offices and personnel to provide the required L&M
support.  While a total savings of one-half would not be
realized, many of the functional lobs could easily be
handled by one person.  Additionally, by placing the parts
and repairable items in the same location or repair
pipeline, significant economies of scale would result.
During deployments these savings could be magnified.  HSL
packup kits (PUK's) and carrier aviation consolidated
allowance list (AVCAL) could be loaded to support all the
H-60 airframes embarked.  This would result in better parts
availability, thus aircraft availability, battle group
wide.  Finally, all the H-60's would be supported by the CV
AIMD, this again would result in better aircraft
		     Community Impact
      What affect will this new command structure have on
the HS and HSL MK III helicopter communities?  First and
foremost, it will place twice as many of our CO's on board
the carrier.  This will result in increased opportunity for
helicopter pilots to command CV's, and ultimately aspire to
CVBG command.  Throughout the years, helicopter pilots have
been told we must get more CO's on board the CV if we ever
hope to compete with our TACAIR brethren.  This plan will
allow us that opportunity.
      In the area of command opportunity, this plan will
ensure we maintain at least two CO positions per carrier air
wing.  With the decreasing budget, we have no way of knowing
how few the number of carrier air wings will be, but at
least we will retain our "fair share".
      And last, but not least, we'll continue to produce
naval officers who understand more about how the navy
operates than other communities.  Naval helicopter pilots
like to think they have a firm grasp on the entire spectrum
of carrier battle group ops.  For those pilots who have not
operated in the other community's environment, I submit that
you do not know how one-half of the U.S. Navy surface fleet
operates.  By giving our young pi lots, aircrewmen, and
maintenance personnel the opportunity to operate in both
environments, we will produce uniquely trained assets for
the U.S. Navy.
		     Future Challenges
      The length of this paper precludes addressing all the
issues involved in such a controversial proposal.  I have
attempted to provide some answers to a few of the
questions.  At the very least, I hope to have offered a
point of departure as to how the helicopter community can
assist naval aviation in the efficient accomplishment of its
mission.  It is imperative that questions such as these get
asked, and even more important that solutions be proposed.
For sooner or later the economics of the military draw down
will force naval aviation into unwelcome and drastic
changes, unless we have a better plan.  If the HS and HSL MK
III communities want to have a say as to what their future
structure should be, then contentious issues such as these
must be confronted openly and honestly.  Parochialism must
be left at the door.  To actually combine these two
communities will take a lot of hard work, and many more
answers to questions that have not been posed.  For example,
I have not addressed the problem of supporting all the HSL
MK III ancillary deployments, ie: UNITAS, NORTHERN WEDDING,
etc.  After doing all the numerical analysis, it may be
found that one or two HSL squadrons will have to be
maintained in order to meet these additional commitments.
I have purposely not addressed how the surface fleet would
react to this proposal, as the surface warriors have long
been strong proponents for the HSL community and tend to
view them as "their" airwing.  Though I believe this new
structure would be even more responsive to their operations,
they will have to be convinced the new structure is in their
best interests.
      Some of the answers I have proposed may be "pipe
dreams".  Convincing our carrier brethren to make roomon
the CV for two helicopter squadrons may be a non-starter.
Combining FRS's and the two syllabi may prove to be too
complicated.  Removing mid-level command structures may
prove politically unassailable.  However, even considering
all the problems involved, I feel that the potential
benefits of combining the two communities outweigh the
disadvantages, especially in the area of increased
operational flexibility and effectiveness.  And finally,
this new HS_ structure will allow the U.S. Navy helicopter
community to continue providing superior support to the
fleet well into the 21st century.

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