HH-60H Sea Hawk
The HH-60H Sea Hawk armed helicopter is a variant of the SH-60F, specifically designed for combat search and rescue and naval special warfare support. It can operate from aircraft carriers, and a variety of other naval and merchant vessels, as well as land bases. The HH-60H retains the same basic airframe, core avionics, and inherent sea-basing capability of the SH-60F and incorporates many of the ballistic tolerance attributes of the Army UH-60, which are ideally suited for the CSAR mission. The US Navy began planning in the late 1990s to replace the HH-60H, with the MH-60S entering service in 2002 and the MH-60R entering service in 2006. Both of these aircraft were intended to supplant the HH-60H across the US Navy.
The HH-60H's primary mission is combat search and rescue, naval special warfare support and anti-surface warfare. Additional missions are logistic support, vertical replenishment, anti-surface warfare, and medical evacuation. The largely empty cabin area of the HH-60H allows room for rescued personnel or SEAL teams in support of special operations. HH-60H aircrews specialize in the rescue of downed airman in hostile territory and employ high-tech devices such as Night Vision Devices (NVDs). Additionally, the aircraft are armed with M240D or GAU-17/A machine guns used to suppress enemy fire during such a rescue, or during a special operations troop insertion. An upgrade to the HH-60H saw the aircraft outfitted with Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) technology, and the capability to fire HELLFIRE missiles. The FLIR incorporates an integrated laser designator, and is used to assist with classification of surface targets at long ranges, and provide laser guidance for HELLFIRE missiles. This anti-ship capability is primarily for use in countering the threat of small patrol boats and minelayers to US Navy and commercial ships.
The HH-60H is a specialized aircraft for a specialized mission. Combat search and rescue is a dedicated effort to bring back pilots shot down behind enemy lines. With the aid of night vision goggles, pilots are able to fly this helicopter under the cover of darkest nights, staying close to the ground to avoid detection by enemy radar and lookouts. Once the downed aviator is rescued, the helicopters egress in the same covert manner to avoid detection. The aircraft may be launched on a variety of CSAR mission scenarios and is designed to covertly penetrate enemy airspace, locate and recover isolated personnel, and return them to friendly territory. Depending upon the threat level in the mission area, the response may vary from an immediate, unopposed recovery to a delayed, highly integrated joint mission utilizing national assets.
Logistics missions include mail and passenger runs, medical Evacuations and vertical replensihment. Both the SH-60F and HH-60H are capable of all logistics missions, but the HH-60H is better suited for most missions because of its larger internal capacity. The cabin of the "H" can be fitted with 10 passenger seats, while the "F" is able to carry only 3 passengers in addition to its crew. Both aircraft have an external cargo hook, which is capable of carrying 6,000 pounds and is used for heavy loads or bulky loads that cannot be fit into the cabin. Having a rescue hoist also gives the helicopter the enhanced ability of hoisting personnel or cargo down to vessels not able to support air operations. Cargo Transfer generally consists of delivering mail or parts, and may be completed by either airframe, however, the HH-60H's increased cabin capacity makes it more versatile for the mission.
Medical evacuation is a vital role played by the Navy's combat support helicopter squadrons. At any hour of the day and in any weather conditions, the helicopters may be called upon to transport those in need of medical attention to facilities at sea or ashore. Medical evacuation can happen anywhere and anytime, so the combat support helicopter squadrons constantly have an alert helicopter ready to respond. If a landing cannot be made, personnel can be hoisted aboard using a rescue strop or litter.
The HH-60H is capable of inserting and extracting SEALs in a variety of ways, including fast rope, rappel, SPIE and McGuire rigs, Para drop, and combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). Any of these methods can be used to covertly insert or extract SEAL platoons from anywhere in the world. Mission systems on the HH-60H make it ideally suited for operations with special warfare units. Combat-equipped personnel can be covertly inserted and/or extracted in any terrain with precise GPS navigation accuracy. A variety of insertion and extraction techniques are available, including landing, hoisting, fastrope, rappel, paradrop, McGuire or SPIE Rig, and CRRC. Additionally, Helicopter Visit Board Search and Seizure (HVBSS) operations may be conducted using one or more of these insertion/extraction techniques. HVBSS missions are designed to take control of a ship considered to be a Contact of Interest (COI). The ability to interdict or 'take down' shipping during enforcement of a naval blockade requires precise planning and execution.
In carrier aviation, helicopters are the first to launch and the last to recover. They provide the battle group with a swift search and rescue platform, on call around the clock to launch on a moment's notice. A search and rescue swimmer is part of the helicopter's crew on nearly every mission. If a sailor falls overboard or a pilot ejects, highly trained swimmers react immediately to effect a rescue.
The nature of certain missions requires the use of SEALs. Mission systems on the HH-60H make it ideally suited for operations with special warfare units. Combat-equipped personnel can be covertly inserted and/or extracted in any terrain with precise GPS navigation accuracy. A variety of insertion and extraction techniques are available, including landing, hoisting, fastrope, rappel, paradrop, McGuire or SPIE Rig, and CRRC. Additionally, Helicopter Visit Board Search and Seizure (HVBSS) operations may be conducted using one or more of these insertion/extraction techniques. HVBSS missions are designed to take control of a ship considered to be a Contact of Interest (COI). The ability to interdict or 'take down' shipping during enforcement of a naval blockade requires precise planning and execution. Tethered Duck (T-Duck) was implemented to rapidly insert troops and a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) to water areas. The troops fastrope down to the CRRC after it is lowered into the water, and the motor is then hoisted down to the troops to complete the procedure. Parachute operations are used for inserting troops when the helicopters are unable to land with a minumum free-fall drop altitude of 2,500 feet AGL (above ground level).
The HH-60H armament options consists of either 2 M240D machine guns (originally M60D machine guns were fitted) or 2 GAU-17/A "Miniguns." The GAU-16/A .50 caliber machine gun could also be fitted. The aircraft is capable of carrying 4 HELLFIRE missiles in addition to the side firing guns. Weapon system growth package development saw testing of the GCAL-50 (GAU-19/A) machine gun, 2.75"/70mm rockets, FIM-92 Stinger, AGM-65 Maverick, and AGM-114 HELLFIRE missiles. The HH-60H's survivability equipment consisted of a radar warning system (APR-39(V)1), a chaff/flare dispenser (ALE-39) and an infrared jammer (ALQ-144(V)1).
The HH-60H has an advanced forward looking infrared (FLIR) capability and radar and infrared countermeasures as well as passive laser and radar detection systems. The engines are also mounted with a hover infrared suppression system (HIRSS). The HH-60H multi-mission VERTREP helicopter features a 6,000 pound external cargo hook, and is cleared for a 7,468 pound useful load. The HH-60H is designed for extended mission endurance and range, and can carry 4 crew members and 8 passengers. The HH-60H has an increased seating capacity in the cabin area for greater versatility and the cockpit is designed for night vision goggle (NVG) operations. The HH-60H, with its FLIR capability has the ability to track surface vessels under any conditions and pass that information on to the carrier battle group.
When the call comes in for the Navy SEALS to participate in a covert operation, time can be a critical ally. Depending on the type of environment the Navy's elite special force may be tasked with entering, an array of military vehicles may be used to transport the team to its destination. One vehicle serving that function was the HH-60H. Thanks to on-going testing objectives of the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (NRWATS), the SEALS could eliminate nearly a half hour from their mission itinerary when deploying from the helicopter.
On 18 June 1997, the NRWATS HH-60H test team and a team of SEALS from Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Little Creek, Virginia, joined forces on the Chesapeake Bay and executed a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) Slung Load Recovery test after a training mission. The test completed an important phase in the overall CRRC project. The CRRC projected experimented with a new design technique that reduced the time it took for a SEAL team to deploy a Zodiac raft from an HH-60H. What used to take a SEAL team 30 minutes to accomplish, took roughly 30 seconds. The staff of the HH-60H test team employed a cargo hook restraint system that attached the raft to the bottom of the helicopter for faster deployment of a SEAL team over a body of water. The time required to deploy a raft before the implementation of the cargo hook restraint system was taking way too long. Helicopter aircrews had to lower the raft down to the water, have the SEALS inflate it, lower mission equipment from the aircraft to the raft, have the SEALS load the raft with the mission-essential gear, and then lower the remaining SEAL team members down the aircraft's rescue hoist.
Using the new system, referred to as Tethered Duck (T-Duck), the fully inflated raft with a modified I-beam, was attached to the cargo hook on the bottom of the aircraft, providing a single-release attachment point (simplifying raft deployment under normal operations and raft jettison during emergency situations). Before the raft was attached to the aircraft, it was loaded with an engine, fuel, weapons and other SEAL mission-essential equipment. Fully loaded, the raft weighed nearly 1,600 pounds. The helicopter, with the loaded CRRC attached to the cargo hook, was positioned 10 feet over its intended target in the water. As the helicopter moved forward at 10 knots, the raft was deployed and the SEAL team members jumped into the water to secure it. Previously, the SEAL team was hoisted down 60 feet, which further delayed the training mission.
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